Feature story |

In Chad, 2-year-old Fadilla beats 3 killer diseases

Fadilla is tiny, but her cheeks are chubby and her eyes are bright. After a three-hour trip on the back of a motorbike with her grandmother and father, the two-year-old waits with her family under a scrubby tree for the mobile clinic team to arrive. Fadilla’s home village of Mouraye, in eastern Chad, has one small health post, but no regular health worker or supplies of medicine; it is used only for vaccination campaigns and health education. So every week, the family makes a round trip to the outpatient feeding clinic run by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in Siheb.

Two-year old Fadilla Mohammed receives follow up treatment and therapeutic food from MSF after she was hospitalised for severe malnutrition in eastern Chad. MSF is providing emergency care to children under five who are the main victims of the current food crisis in Chad.
Fadilla is one of the hundreds of children MSF has treated at a hospital in Am Timan since early 2012. She is now back in her village where MSf is still providing her with therapuetic food and treating her for TB. Photograph by Ansley Howe

Fadilla was recently discharged from MSF’s hospital in Am Timan following two months of intensive treatment for severe acute malnutrition on top of tuberculosis (TB) and malaria. When she was admitted, she weighed just six kilos, half the normal weight of a child her age.

Today Fadilla's grandmother, Zeneba, has a wide smile.

"Just look at Fadilla now,” she says, "she is doing so much better."

The nurses in the nutrition team agree. When they weigh her on the hanging scales, they are delighted to find she has reached her target weight. Zeneba says Fadilla’s fevers and coughing have stopped and she is now able to walk and play with the other toddlers in her compound.

On her weekly visits to the clinic, Fadilla is examined by the nurses and evaluated for any complications or side effects from the medicine she is taking. She will continue to receive free treatment and nutritional supplements through MSF’s treatment programme based in Am Timan. If there are no further complications, her TB treatment will be finished in four months.

Fadilla sits on her grandmother's lap, sucking on a packet of ready-to-use therapeutic food, a sweet, peanut-based paste enriched with vitamins and minerals, especially formulated for malnourished children. When a nurse tries to help her squeeze more paste from the packet, she frowns and yells, adamant that no one is going to share her portion.

Fadilla is lucky: she is recovering from a trio of diseases, any one of which could have killed her; and she has family members who care for her deeply. Her father and grandmother say they will continue to make sure their little girl comes to the clinic to receive treatment for as long as she needs it.