Her arms are little wider than her mother’s thumb. There are no rolls of flesh around her knees, no dimples in her cheeks.

One-year-old Khadija weighs just 9lb 14oz – the same as some newborns.
Before she arrived at this emergency paediatric unit in Maiduguri, in northeast Nigeria, she was starving.



Her mother, Fatima, herself emaciated, sleeps on the floor by her daughter at the International Rescue Committee-run unit.

She says: “Some days I could not feed her at all. We have no food.

“I fell sick myself and could not breast-feed, and there was nothing else. I could only comfort her, hold her when she cried.”



Khadija is just one victim of a *humanitarian catastrophe in this region of Nigeria, where an estimated 55,000 people are hit by famine.

Without aid, it is feared that number could rise to 100,000 in Borno state alone – a state the size of Belgium – by next summer, and 120,000 people, mostly *children, will starve to death across northeast Nigeria next year.

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Khadija with mum Fatima (Photo: Andy Commins/Daily Mirror)

From left: Mirror's Emily, Kuliram, 10, mother Fanna with baby Awana and Yababaye, 7 (Photo: Andy Commins/Daily Mirror)
Other grim predictions suggest that, over the next 12 months, 14 million people here will require humanitarian assistance.


It is not natural disaster that has caused this crisis. These people are victims of Boko Haram , ranked by the Global Terrorism Index as the world’s deadliest terror group.

The murderous militants, who have close ties to Islamic State, are said to have slaughtered more than 15,000 people in six years. Their occupation of swathes of the country has left a bloody trail of execution, rape, kidnap and arson. And this summer, it became frighteningly clear they have left something else in their wake – starvation.

The Nigerian military is now freeing areas from Boko Haram control, but they are uncovering starving people, stripped of their farms and crops by the terrorists, or driven from their homes with nothing.


Another malnourished child lies helpless (Photo: Andy Commins/Daily Mirror)
Of the two million people displaced in northeast Nigeria, most of them are in Borno. Fatima and Khadija fled to the state from their hometown of Gumsa, over 125 miles away, when they heard Boko Haram was rampaging towards them.

“We heard of executions. We think they burnt our crops,” says Fatima.

The population of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno, has doubled due to the refugee crisis , and it is still regularly attacked by Boko Haram suicide bombers.

There are 18 camps in the city – and more than 40 across Nigeria’s northeast. Those who have made it to these centres have a chance. But an *estimated two million are stuck in areas not yet cleared by the military.

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Khadija and her family were driven from their home in Mafa by Boko Haram (Photo: Andy Commins/Daily Mirror)
“People will die if aid is not given. They are already dying,” says Orla Fagan, of the UN ’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

“Across the three worst-affected states – Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa – 450,000 children are facing severe, acute malnutrition.”

Tragically, it is predicted that one in five of them will die if they don’t get help. Last week, the UN and the Nigerian government launched a £800million humanitarian response plan – but they desperately need donations.

The current horrors are worryingly reminiscent of the Biafran war of the late 1960s, when fighting and famine killed one million people. Images of emaciated children, their stomachs distended due to protein deficiency, horrified people across the world. In the mid-80s, widespread starvation in Ethiopia made global headlines.


450,000 children are facing severe, acute malnutrition across the three worst-affected states (Photo: Andy Commins/Daily Mirror)
Drought in the east African country led to crop failure, resulting in a famine that caused one million deaths.

It inspired Band Aid’s 1984 fundraising hit, Do They Know It’s Christmas?.

Back in Maiduguri, in the Muna camp, which holds over 40,000 refugees, another baby cries out in hunger. Awana latches on to his mother’s breast, but she is too malnourished to feed him.

Like Khadija, he is shockingly underweight. At one year old, he should weigh 23lb, but he tips the scales at 8lb. His mother, Fanna, is running out of hope.

“There is no milk for my baby. I feel like giving up. I feel he will die,” she says, her own skeletal limbs jutting out from beneath her clothes.



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Food is still in short supply and is expensive due to Nigeria's struggling economy (Photo: Andy Commins/Daily Mirror)
Fanna arrived in Muna seven months ago. She fled her home in Mafa, 75 miles away, when she heard the terrorists were approaching. She says: “Boko Haram was killing people. My husband was a farmer, but we had to leave it all behind.”

Aid agencies stepped up operations this summer as refugees flooded from newly liberated areas. But food is still in short supply and expensive, due to high demand and Nigeria’s struggling economy.

Numb with pain and hunger, an expressionless Fanna tells that me her three-year-old daughter, Yetsa, died. Severely malnourished, she stood no chance when she contracted measles.

She is buried on a scrap of wasteland, where rows of small mounds of earth mark the bodies. “It is 40 days since I lost my child,” Fanna says. “She would cry of hunger. I held her as she died.”

Leaving her other daughters, Kuliram, 10, and Yababaye, seven, in their hut, Fanna takes Awana to a nearby UNICEF clinic, where mothers and their severely malnourished *children line up.

Here, the charity hands out lifesaving aid, including ready-to-use therapeutic food, a nut-based paste.


Tiny Khadija weighs only 9lb 14oz (Photo: Andy Commins/Daily Mirror)
When used correctly, it can bring mortality down to 1%. But Awana is losing weight, despite having no additional medical complications.

UNICEF’s nutrition officer, Aminu Usman, believes this may be because Fanna is sharing the paste with her other children, or even eating some herself. The family survives on a single bowl of grain a day. But today, they can’t afford anything.

As Awana’s bicep is measured – it is 8cm when it should be 13cm – Aminu says: “This is severe wasting. If he survives, he will always be stunted, and his brain development [will be affected].” Down the road, in the Bakasi camp, which has a population of 38,000, another mum grieves for a child lost to malnutrition.

Mainuma, 26, and her husband Mohammed, 45, clutch a battered mobile phone that holds all they have left of their little girl, Rabi – a single grainy photo. She died from malnutrition in July, aged three, weighing 9lb. Mainuma says: “All her muscles wasted and she stopped walking, then she stopped eating.”


Nigeria is in desperate need of charitable donations (Photo: Andy Commins/Daily Mirror)
In the family’s hometown of Kandak, Mohammed worked for the local government, making him a target for Boko Haram.

He fled but Mainuma and their children – they also have a son, five, and an eight-month-old daughter – were imprisoned.

“They beat us. There was no food,” she recalls. Somehow, they managed to escape, but the journey cost Rabi her life.

Mainuma is also raising her orphaned eight-year-old sister. Their parents were killed by Boko Haram. Mainuma says, simply: “It was the worst I have ever felt.”

Back at the IRC’s paediatric unit, Khadija, solemn until now, reaches out for a cup of milk and smiles. Thanks to supplies from UNICEF, the little girl is being fed regularly with special protein milk. Food can be provided for her mother, too.