Kenya baby, life-saving nutrition

On the road to recovery

Families can often face difficulties in taking their children for treatment, something which mothers in West Pokot, Kenya, know about all too well. We are proud to share our Kenya series, focusing on our nutrition success stories from West Pokot.

By Christine Kahmann

Jan 15 2014

Lonah’s face swells painfully and the little girl struggles to open her eyes.  Her mother, Monica Simon, looks down at her with a worried look on her face. They have been at the Sigor stabilisation centre in West Pokot, Kenya, for a week while Lonah is receiving 24 hour intensive care. 
 
The little girl is two years and two months old and is suffering from kwashiorkor, a type of severe acute malnutrition that manifests in painful swelling, as muscles become severely weakened and organs like the liver swell. 
 
Monica has come across this illness before and has seen a few children in her village, Ptokou, affected by the same thing. People in her village call the sickness ‘cheptilen’ but Monica says that she never realised that it was related to food and hunger and people do not really understand why it happens.
 
Families in her community usually try to treat sick children with traditional herbs boiled into water, and so this is what Monica did for Lonah. However Lonah’s swelling continued to get worse every day and her hair began to turn lighter and thinner. Monica became very afraid for her little girl. 

Reaching and treating local communities

She had heard about the treatment centre from an Action Against Hunger community health worker who had visited her village and told people to come if they were worried that their children were weak. As Lonah grew worse, Monica set off to the hospital and hasn’t looked back since.   

Now after one week, Lonah is being treated with special therapeutic milks and her swelling is reducing slowly but surely. Monica will stay at the hospital with her daughter for the next few weeks until she has fully recovered. Lonah still has a long way to go before she is back to normal, but the signs are looking good. The doctor reassures her mother that she shouldn’t worry because she brought her daughter to the centre in time and she should be fine in a few weeks.

Hope for the future

Monica says: “I am so thankful and happy that my daughter is getting better. My hope for the future is that she will be healthy and will go to school. I am very glad that I met the community health worker that day as I did not know about this place before. I think there should be more community health workers in villages so they can tell other mothers about this place.”
 
Once she is better, Lonah will be admitted into the outpatient programme and will return to the centre each week for a check-up and to collect Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Foods for her home treatment. 
 
Monica says: “It takes three hours to walk to the centre, but this is not an issue for me. If I walk to the market it takes the same time and if I leave early in the morning I can be home by evening. If my daughter needs it then it must be done. But I do know some women in the village who do not come to the centre because they are unable to walk so far.”
 
Monica watches the other mothers and babies playing in the brightly coloured ward and smiles at them. Behind the smile, the worry in her eyes remains. In a few weeks, after intensive treatment, Lonah will be running around with the other children but until then all Monica can do is wait. 

Action Against Hunger has been working in Kenya since 2002
Action Against Hunger has been working in Kenya since 2002

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Photo credits:  © S.Hauenstein Swan