Mariama, The Gambia

No mother should have to watch her child starve. But Maria did. In the midst of a food crisis in Niger, hunger is stalking Maria’s young daughter Fatchima. Maria and her husband, a farmer and water merchant, are working long hours to put food on the table. But when there isn’t any water to sell at the market and their crops are withering to dust, life is a daily struggle.

“I want other mothers in America to know that I am doing the best I can for my Fatchima. I love her very much,” confided Maria.

Sadly, with food and water shortages worsening, Fatchima grew frail and started getting sick after she began drinking water from the village well.

As weeks passed, the diarrhea became more watery. Food remained scare. Then, Maria began noticing the outline of bones that used to be hidden under Fatchima’s once-plump arms, legs and cheeks.

Maria knew that without nutritious, fortifying food and the proper vitamins and minerals growing children need, Fatchima’s survival was in jeopardy.

Frantic and desperate that her now-14-month-old daughter had literally become skin and bones, Maria took a brave step. She used a full day of her husband’s meager pay to hire a man with a motorcycle to drive them over treacherous dirt roads to reach the nearest Save the Children malnutrition unit.

It was a decision that saved Fatchima’s life.

Anxious and scared, Maria quickly learned that Fatchima’s condition was critical. Weighing just 11 pounds, little more than when she was born, Fatchima was in what her nurses called the “danger zone.” Children 7 to 18 months old in Niger and other developing countries are most susceptible to acute malnutrition and waterborne illness, which makes them most vulnerable to rapid dehydration, infections and death.