About the Emergency


Inadequate rainfall in 2012 led to low food productions and high grain prices. USAID’s Famine Early Warning System expected a food insecurity crisis in parts of West Africa from April to September. The Famine Early Warning System called for emergency assistance to help protect vulnerable people from the danger of acute malnutrition and starvation.

According to the United Nations, 19 million people were at risk, including 5.4 million in Niger and 4.6 million in Mali. UNICEF warned that more than 1 million children were at risk of starvation. Families left their homes in search of food.

Al-Mustafa’s Story

When we met him in February 2012, Al-Mustafa is 10 months old, but he weighed only as much as a newborn. His skin hung loose on his body, and his eyelids seemed too heavy for him to keep open.

Ramadan Photo of the Day 24: When we first met Al-Mustafa in the Tillaberi Therapeutic Feeding Clinic, Niger, he was already 10-months old, but weighed the same as a new-born baby. His mother had recently died, and he seemed to be on the same path. The only comfort he had was being cradled in his mourning grandmother's arms. It seemed to be where he felt safe. But our final visit with Al-Mustafa at the TFC, which is supported by generous Islamic Relief UK donors, was different: still underweight, but on his way to recovery, doctors told us that he was gaining weight, and would, insha'Allah soon be released. And by now, Al-Mustafa is likely much healthier than he looked when this photo was taken. Please keep him, his family, and all those suffering, and insha'Allah recovering, in your prayers. (Photo credit: Adam Scarth for Islamic Relief)

His mother was weak and sick for weeks. He was dependent on her milk—his grandmother has nothing else to offer him. Then, his young mother died, and at only 7 pounds, the tiny orphan seemed to be following the same route. His only comfort was in his mourning grandmother’s arms. When she put him down for even a moment, he would muster up the energy to cry. So she held him constantly, and he lay still and quiet in her arms, trying to sleep away his hunger.

Then, diagnosed with severe malnutrition at a local clinic, he was rushed to the Tillaberi Therapeutic Feeding Clinic in Niger with his grandmother.

The Tillaberi hospital opened in 2005. Islamic Relief UK has given crucial support to help the hospital deliver adequate emergency care for severely malnourished children—those under 5 are free of charge.

These resources and this support helped Al-Mustafa gain strength. After seven days in the feeding center, Al-Mustafa weighed 8.8 pounds, just over a pound away from his goal of 10 pounds—when he and his grandmother could go back home.

He has since left Tiliberi, and gone back home. We pray that he will have a long and healthy life ahead.

Please help children like Al-Mustafa by supporting Islamic Relief’s West Africa Crisis fund.

How Islamic Relief Is Helping

Islamic Relief’s offices in the region are assisting people through a variety of projects, and Islamic Relief USA has supported food security projects to help individuals in Mali and Niger affected by drought. Islamic Relief has been working in Mali since 1997 and Niger since 2005. Teams have helped communities in the region through past droughts, and have implemented many long-term projects such as well construction and farmland irrigation.

Check out our dedicated Mali page and dedicated Niger page to learn more about specific efforts in each of those countries.

How You Can Help