An inspiring ‘before and after’ story

As famine ravages parts of Somalia, the story of Zam Zam shows how emergency food and care can dramatically change children’s lives. Just a few weeks after meeting a dangerously malnourished child named Zam Zam, World Vision staff discovered that she is doing much better.

Story and photos by Jon Warren and World Vision staff. Edited by Rachael Boyer.
Published October 7, 2011 at 12:00am PDT


Layla Mohamed, 24, fled conflict with her husband and five children, but found herself fighting to save her 18-month-old baby, Zam Zam. In the middle of severe drought and famine, Zam Zam’s name is full of irony, but also hope. It means a “spring” of water.

World Vision staff members discovered Layla and Zam Zam in Somalia. Nutrition manager Wema Adere could immediately tell how severe the baby’s condition was when she saw Zam Zam’s “old man” features of saggy, wrinkly skin.

A measurement of her upper arm circumference confirmed that Zam Zam was severely malnourished. World Vision provided sachets of Plumpy’Nut™ (a peanut-based, nutrient-dense food) to feed Zam Zam, and urged Layla to take her baby to the camp center for malnourished children run by another organization.

The nutrition manager also encouraged Layla to keep breastfeeding.

“I don’t sleep enough because I am so worried,” said Layla. “I wake up in the night and give drink to the baby.”


Just a few weeks later, when a World Vision staff member visited, Zam Zam was bright-eyed and had gained weight. The change is remarkable.

Layla has been giving Zam Zam the Plumpy’Nut™ each morning and evening, and says that “she has more energy, [but] she’s still too weak to stand up.”

After World Vision found Zam Zam severely malnourished, our staff members intervened with nutritional supplements. The difference after just a few weeks couldn't be more pronounced.The story of Layla and Zam Zam illustrates the process involved in bringing relief to children and families affected by the food crisis in the Horn of Africa — though the little girl has made significant strides, her recovery will be a long one.

More help for Somalia

World Vision is working across this region, including Kenya and Ethiopia, to respond to the drought that is affecting so many. Across this part of Africa, more than 13.5 million people are in dire need.

In Somalia, World Vision is able to help some of the people in desperate need with interventions like safe drinking water, health clinics, Child-Friendly Spaces, and other necessities.

For families fleeing drought across the region, World Vision is providing nutrition supplements to malnourished children, improving healthcare and sanitation, increasing the capacity of earth dams in anticipation of rains, and beginning livelihood activities to enhance communities’ economic conditions.

Learn more

Read a post by Jon Warren on the World Vision Blog in which he shares his thoughts about the suffering he witnessed while covering the food crisis in the Horn of Africa.

Pastors: Get your church involved in responding to the food crisis in the Horn of Africa. Check out our resources — such as bulletin inserts, prayer points, social media banners, and more — and equip your congregation to respond with compassion to this emergency.

Four ways you can help

Thank God for the progress that Zam Zam has made in the fight against extreme malnutrtion; pray that this precious child will continue to recover and grow stronger. Pray for the millions who are still suffering in the Horn of Africa at the hands of this emergency.

Make a one-time gift to our Horn of Africa Food Crisis Fund. Your donation will multiply up to five times in impact to help deliver things like emergency food aid, clean water, agricultural support, medical assistance, and more to those whose lives are at risk from this crisis.

Contact your lawmakers today. Ask them to prioritize the needs of those suffering from hunger as they consider the U.S. federal budget.

Consider signing up your students or youth group to participate in the 30 Hour Famine. They’ll learn about global hunger and experience what it’s like to go without food for 30 hours — all while raising funds to help feed and care for hungry children!