Senegal Boy Receives Life-Changing Eating Disorder Treatment

SENEGAL — “Life is hard … Having a child who was born without the ability to eat,” said Ndeye. Ndeye’s only son Cheikh was born with a cleft lip and a cleft palate. As a result of this he struggled to breastfeed. His mother bottle fed him infant formula, trying desperately to ensure her baby had the nutrition he needed. Swallowing was difficult and Cheikh developed an aversion to food.Watch what happened next for Cheikh on his road to recovery thanks to treatment on board the Christian medical ship The Africa Mercy on Senegal.

NdeyeCheikh’s Mother:

Having a child born without the ability to eat, I couldn’t leave my house, or even go anywhere else. I was just looking after Cheikh to help him eat and survive. Because in our society, if you have a disabled child, you won’t be respected, you will no longer be a part of society, you will lose your job. You’ll stay at home because you won’t have any help with your child. Even your closest friends who are supposed to help you will abandon you.

When my husband told his colleague that our son had a cleft lip, his colleague informed him that his sister was working with Mercy Ships. The day we left our home to come to the Hope Center was Cheikh’s birthday. He is 2 years old now. I was crying that day. I told Cheikh: “Today was your birthday and it’s also the day you go to the hospital”


Cheikh was a patient who had this affection for anyone that he saw. He just wanted to be part of what was happening and was just climbing over everyone and just wanting hugs and just brought so much joy.

Surgery takes a big toll on the body and the body sees surgery like an injury. And so after surgery the body’s requirements for nutrition are quite high. And so if we have patients who are underweight when we do the surgery, their outcomes of recovery and complications can be a lot worse.


Thanks to the help of the dieticians, he gained enough weight for surgery.


You know, our goal as dietitians is to get kids well fed. So to have a child that’s afraid of food, when food is supposed to be good and nourishing for your body, it’s difficult and it’s a thing that would take a lot of years of therapy to help alleviate those fears. And we just started brainstorming ideas and what we could do to try to support him. So we brought him in and we put him in a high chair and we got him some toys and his mom played a song on her phone that he loved and we just kind of kept it light and fun for him.

Then we gradually started replacing the toys with soft foods and he kind of to our surprise started grabbing them and mushing them in his hands which he really had not done before because he was so afraid of the food. And then he started throwing them on the ground like a normal toddler. So we just kept introducing more food and eventually as long as we kept the music going eventually he put food in his mouth.

Kind of was surprised about it. We were surprised and we all cheered and was so great. And then he kept playing with food and then he put it in his mouth a couple more times and you could tell that he was very interested in it and not afraid. And it was just a very fun and sweet moment.

About Mercy Ships

Mercy Ships uses hospital ships to deliver free, world-class healthcare services, capacity building, and sustainable development to those with little access in the developing world. Founded in 1978 by Don and Deyon Stephens, Mercy Ships has worked in more than 55 developing countries, providing services valued at more than $1.7 billion and directly benefitting more than 2.8 million people. Our ships are crewed by volunteers from over 60 nations, with an average of over 1,200 volunteers each year. Professionals including surgeons, dentists, nurses, healthcare trainers, teachers, cooks, seamen, engineers, and agriculturalists donate their time and skills. With 16 national offices and an Africa Bureau, Mercy Ships seeks to transform individuals and serve nations one at a time. For more information click on

CONTACT: Diane Rickard, Int’l Media Relations Manager, Mercy Ships,

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