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Nitak’s Story: Overcoming Malnutrition in Ethiopia


August 17, 2022 • 2 min read

Nitak was born three years ago in Gambella refugee camp in western Ethiopia. Like thousands of others in the camp, Nitak’s expecting mother Narwet and her husband Garwich left their home in South Sudan due to civil conflict.

Tragically, Narwet died due to complications giving birth. As a result, Nitak faced countless challenges from the day she was born. Despite this she has defied all the odds and survived with help from GOALies working in the camp.

She was born underweight and her father Garwich, heartbroken with grief at the loss of his first wife, was unable to take care of Nitak. He also associated his wife’s death with traditional beliefs and concluded that Nitak was bad luck to the family. The resulting neglect from her father and the absence of her mother led to Nitak’s worsening health and within a few days, she became severely malnourished. She was then brought to the camp’s health outpost, where GOAL teams provide integrated support for the refugee community.

A Chance At Life

Nitak was immediately diagnosed as severely malnourished and admitted for treatment. With proper care, feeding, and follow-up, Nitak started to recover and even afforded the chance to smile and play with GOAL’s medical team caring for her at the health facility.

While Nitak was recovering, GOAL’s team contacted her father. “Her father was so sad about his first wife,” says Mamit Tezazu, a Nutrition Counselor with GOAL. “In his tradition, babies whose mothers passed away during childbirth are considered bad lack. After intense discussions, he agreed to change his stance on Nitak and agreed to ask his second wife, Naret, to look after her.”

When Nitak recovered, the team trained Naret on how best to feed her the formula milk made for babies like Nitak.

GOAL’s Mamit Tezazu has been helping to care for Nitak

A Healthy, Happy Child

After six months of regular follow-up between the medical team and her stepmother, Nitak was in the clear and showed signs of positive progress. Step by step, she became a healthy and happy child.

“Everyone here knows Nitak,” says Tezazu. “We even celebrated her third birthday here in the office. Had it not been for the love and care of her stepmother, care and follow up of GOALies, and ECHO’s generous financial support she wouldn’t be here today. For me, children like Nitak are not babies with malnutrition cases, they are symbols of endurance that motivate me to support many others in my job. It can be a lesson of survival in my own personal life.”

Nitak has recently started attending kindergarten and loves learning the alphabet. She’s hitting all her developmental milestones and can finally enjoy her childhood. Nitak now brightens up the classroom, singing about her family and school-life.

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Nitak with her stepmother Naret