Malnutrition in Ethiopia series: Sheleme, part three

The damned oedemas have persisted for several days now. Yesterday at daybreak Sheleme once again refused to drink the therapeutic milk. This set off alarm bells for the doctors who thought they would have to put her on a feeding tube.

Sheleme was terrified. At the last second her mother, Subo, refused: "I told them I could do it myself, that I would make sure Sheleme drinks the milk at the scheduled times day and night." And the hours that followed proved her right.

Today Sheleme can move her head a little bit. Her oedemas have begun to disappear which has triggered a weight loss. Although this seems counterproductive it is actually normal in children with kwashiorkor: Sheleme has dropped to 10 kg from 10.5 kg.

At 2pm, when Subo brings the twins for their daily bath, Sheleme is almost able to walk on her own down the corridors of the centre. Despite the warm water provided by MSF to prevent hypothermia, Sheleme wails while her mother bathes her. Katuba quietly observes the scene and holds her twin sister's dress until it is over.

"Despite a few coughs, Sheleme's recuperation is good. Like her sister, she'll be able to start the F100 milk, a thicker milk that we give to children in the transition stage," said the doctor, Karen, obviously delighted. This is undoubtedly an encouraging turn of events for her and all of the medical personnel: last night, two children died in the centre.