2.7 Million Children in Chad Face Malnutrition - UNICEF

Africa News

Her tiny mouth is constantly open, trying to suck in air.

Adama Assan is four months old, but tips the scales at a pitiful 3.3 kilograms (7.3 pounds) -- not even the average weight at birth of a typical newborn in Europe.

"Normally, a baby of her age would weigh six kilos," said Ousmane Ahmat Mahamat, a supervisor nurse at a ward in a hospital in N'Djamena, the capital of Chad, that specialises in infant malnutrition.

In respiratory distress, the scrawny baby is in intensive care, with a breathing tube inserted through a tiny nostril.

Her 18-year-old mother, Zara Issa, sits by helplessly and watches.

"I've been here for four days, watching over her," Issa says.

In the same unit, run by a Senegal-based NGO called ALIMA, 10-month-old Alkhatir Djimiet is also intubated.

He has matchstick-like arms and ribs that stick out: he weighs only 4.5 kilograms, when it should be seven or eight for a healthy infant of his age.

"He is fighting to survive -- he's in a virtual coma," said Ahmat Mahamat, putting the child's file down.

- Hunger crisis -

These children are among the growing numbers of infants suffering from malnutrition in Chad, a landlocked Sahel country that according to UN figures is the third poorest nation in the world.