life-saving malnutrition work | Kenya

Saving lives by knowing the signs

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 Action Against Hunger

Jan 15 2014

Faith Jacob has been sat by her baby’s hospital bedside for over three weeks.
 
Her son, little 10-month-old Boneface, is suffering from severe acute malnutrition – the most deadly type of hunger, and he is being treated round the clock with special therapeutic milk products.
 
Faith, 22, says: “My baby was sick for three weeks with a fever and diarrhoea and could not eat anything without vomiting. I was very worried.”

Recognising the signs

When Faith took Boneface to the local health centre near to her village in Ptalam, Action Against Hunger’s community health workers instantly saw how sick he was.
 
Measurements of his height, weight and upper arm (Mid-Upper Arm Circumference) confirmed that he was severely acutely malnourished and he also had a chest infection, which was affecting his breathing.  

Starting on the road to recovery

The mother and baby were taken to the stabilisation centre in Sigor, where the most severely malnourished children – usually those with medical complications – are treated with 24 hour a day specialist care.
 
Luckily Boneface reached the hospital in time and doctors are confident that he will make a full recovery. As Faith looks down at her baby playing happily with a plastic yoyo, a huge smile spreads across her face and she says how happy she is that he is getting better. 

She explains: “The reason I took Boneface to the doctor was because I attended a community health talk in my village by Action Against Hunger. As the women were talking about hunger I knew that was what was wrong with my baby. They told me that if I was worried about my child then I should take him to the centre and so I did.” 

Obstacles to healthier futures

However, Faith’s time at the centre is not without its problems. She is worried about how she will get home when Boneface is discharged. Her village is around a day’s walk away and she has no money to pay for transport costs. She says she will try to get word to her husband to pay for a vehicle but if she cannot, then she will have to walk the long journey instead, carrying Boneface all the way.
 
Transport costs are often a big issue for mothers in West Pokot and can sometimes even prevent women from bringing their children for treatment in the first place.

Finding solutions to access barriers

Action Against Hunger is finding ways to make it easier for mothers to access treatment. Potential solutions could include training more community health workers to reach isolated villages or establishing more health centres in hard to reach areas. Teams are working hard to ensure that every child in West Pokot can have access to treatment should they need it.
 
It is hard to believe that just three weeks ago Boneface was at the brink of death. Now, he is unrecognisable from the sick little baby that first arrived at the clinic. And for his mother Faith, the smile will not come off her face and she is relieved that she attended the community health talk in her village and got her baby to the centre in time.

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

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Editor’s Note: We're proud to be highlighting some of our nutrition success stories from West Pokot, Kenya, and wish to extend our gratitude to partners UNICEF and ECHO (The European Community Humanitarian Office) for supporting these programs.

Photo Credit: © Samuel Hauenstein Swan