From “Red” to “Green” – How Emergency Nutrition is Saving Lives in Somalia

Mothers had no way to feed their babies. Drought decimated crops, water supplies, and livelihoods. Families left their homes in search of any sort of food for their children.

The drought continues to withhold the rain in Somalia, but in villages across Somalia, a bit of hope is breaking through.

Arms that once measured in the red are now in the green, and mothers are breathing deep sighs of relief.

a little girl measures as healthy after receiving emergency nutrition

Using a strip that measures the upper arm circumference of a child, field staff can determine a child’s nutritional status depending on the color range. Red indicates severe malnutrition, and a high likelihood the child will not survive. Orange and yellow show a risk of or moderate malnutrition, and green a healthy, developing child.

Their fight for survival is far from over. Food and water remain scarce, yet there is hope because at the most critical stage in their development, these little ones are growing healthy and strong.

Below are some of the grateful mothers and nourished children who received emergency nutrition.

Cabdi & Subeer
children in Somalia receive emergency nutrition
Saafi with her two happy, healthy boys!

Saafi is the mother of 8 children and lives in a remote village in Somalia. Her 4-year-old Cabdi and 3-year-old Subeer suffered from both stomach and headaches, the result of severe malnutrition.

“They used to play with other children, but then they stopped,” said Saafi.

Thankfully, Cabdi and Subeer were recipients of emergency nutripackets. In just a month they were back to playing outside with other children!

“Now the children are healthy,” said a relieved Saafi.

two young boys in rural Somalia

Husen & Nicmo
the upper arm circumference of a boy is measured for malnutrition
Husen’s mom holds him while a staff member measures his arm. It’s not quite all in the green, but it’s safe to say he is no longer at risk.

“Probably, he would have died if he did not get any treatment.”

Husen, just under 2-years-old, was not going to live much longer without proper nutrition. His mother, Faysa, was desperate for an answer, but there was no food to spare for her little boy. But when Husen started his daily dose of nutripackets, it did not take long to see a change.

Faysa reported, “Even within the first week…I felt that he was improving!

a gir's arm is measured for health in Somalia
Nicmo’s eyes are no longer glazed over in hunger, but much clearer as she continues to eat emergency nutrition packets.

3-year-old Nicmo is steadily regaining her strength after not having enough to eat for much of her little life. She’s not completely in the clear, but every day she’s growing stronger.


This trip was a bit different than the others, as many children had yet to receive any nutripackets to supplement their non-existent diet. Mothers were eager to take the packets home and begin to feed their children.

a child is at high risk for malnutrition in Somalia
Hawa has hope that the emergency nutrition packets will bring her baby back to health.

Hawa, pictured above in blue, expects her baby to gain weight and improve after eating a steady diet of nutripackets.

“There was a time she was weaker than this,” said Sabad. It’s hard to believe as Sabad holds her crying daughter, Safa. Sabad knows her little one’s arm measures in the red, but is confident that once Safa begins eating the emergency nutrition she will soon regain her health.

a baby girl who is malnourished in Somalia
Emergency nutrition reached baby Safa just in time. Without the nutrition packets, Safa would not have lived much longer.

When nothing grows, nutripackets are often a mother’s only source of hope for her child’s survival.

Learn more about why children in Somalia have no food, and how you can play a role in delivering emergency nutrition to starving children.