A Nigerian grandmother kept her starving grandchild alive by breastfeeding while on the run from deadly insurgents.
Aisha Modu’s daughter died a few months ago when her baby was just 40 days old.
Aisha, thought to be in her 50s, faced months of hell after her grandchild’s father was abducted by insurgents, forcing her to flee on foot with the baby in her arms.
Aisha, who is now at a Save the Children clinic in north-east Nigeria, said: ‘I was sleeping at the time but a neighbor woke me and told me to take what I could and run.
‘The bullets were the size of my finger and they were firing them everywhere.
‘I am old so I tried to run with a group of men but we were captured by the insurgents. They slaughtered one of the men in front of me.’
Aisha had no food or money, so did the only thing she could to keep the little girl alive, and breastfed her.
No milk was produced straight away as it is decades since Aisha had a child, and the baby’s weight plummeted to about 4lbs (1.9kg).
Eventually Aisha managed to get to charity staff with her three-month-old and was referred to a clinic where she is being helped by Dr Isaac Bot.
Dr Bot said: ‘Aisha came in with her granddaughter and was very anxious about where she was. Being from such a remote part of the country she was not familiar with hospitals.
‘She was jittery about the environment and was confused and apprehensive.
‘I asked if she was getting support from anywhere else and she said she had nobody. She broke down and cried when she told us this. It was very emotional.’
Staff helped her to cope and managed to help her breastfeed the infant.
Dr Bot added: ‘The milk was just beginning to flow but it was not sufficient.
‘We started a process called Supplementary Suckling Technique where we put a little tube into the baby’s mouth beside the nipple and so when the baby suckles it is rewarded with milk. This suckling also sends a message to Aisha’s brain to stimulate milk production.’
Save the Children says there are many women in remote villages in Nigeria who breastfeed other women’s babies because of the high numbers of mothers who die.
The doctor said: ‘Maternal mortality is quite high so we often see sisters suckling the children of their deceased sisters.
‘These support systems are very important. Any woman can breastfeed even if she has never had a child or hasn’t breastfed in many years as long as she regularly puts the baby to the breast. It’s free and anyone can do it.’
According to Save the Children, breastfeeding is the single most effective intervention to save children’s lives and could prevent 13 per cent of all under-five deaths if practiced properly.