Isaac’s Ongoing Recovery from Malnutrition January 29, 2014 by Nick Johnson
One of the clearest markers of a community’s well-being is the health of its children. When resources like food, clean water, and income are scarce, surviving trumps thriving. Kids in Kibera who suffer from chronic malnutrition often never bounce back or reach the proper developmental milestones. However, if treated early enough, kids can be set on the right track.
We’d like to introduce you to Isaac.
In May of last year, Isaac weighed 6 kgs (~13 lbs), at 13 months old. The normal weight of a child his age in Kenya is typically 8 kgs (~18 lbs). That’s not a big difference for an adult, but for an infant, it’s huge.
During a community screening for malnutrition, CFK Community Health Workers (CHWs) met Isaac and his parents. Isaac’s mother is a housewife who recently moved to Kibera from a rural area with her son to be with her husband, who works as a casual laborer. Making under $2 a day strained the family’s resources, and Isaac’s health showed it.
Isaac was so malnourished that instead of recommending him to enroll in CFK’s Lishe Bora Mtaani nutrition center right away, doctors at the Tabitha Medical Clinic recommended that Isaac go to the hospital for emergency care. Not only was Isaac severely malnourished, but he suffered from anemia, pneumonia, and developmental delays. Like many families in Kibera, Isaac’s parents were worried about being able to pay the hospital expenses, which were still costly despite the fact that children under 5 in Kenya can receive hospital care for a reduced price. But thanks to the support from CFK’s Health Department emergency fund, the bill of 4,800 shillings (~$56) was covered, and Isaac was released from the hospital weighing 6.7 kgs (~15 lbs).
After his hospital visits ended, Isaac was enrolled in the Lishe Bora nutrition center to continue receiving treatment in an out-patient setting. He was fed every two hours, with feeding supplements and balanced meals and snacks, and he participated in group activities with other infants to start building social skills.
The approach of Lishe Bora’s program involves parents of malnourished children as well. In order to ensure that Isaac would continue receiving proper nutrients,
Isaac’s mother took classes with other mothers on preparing balanced meals for her family and on the importance of good hygiene and sanitation for families living in Kibera.
After two months in the center, Isaac was able to stand and walk on his own and was beginning to speak, all developmental milestones he previously hadn’t reached. He was finally released from the nutrition center at the standard weight of 18 lbs. Isaac’s mother believes that if it weren’t for CFK, she may have lost her son. Indeed, over the course of several months, Isaac and his family interacted with all three branches of CFK’s Health Department: the community health workers first identified Isaac as malnourished, the Tabitha Clinic referred him to the hospital, and then Isaac was enrolled in the nutrition center where he continued making his recovery. Esther, CFK Nutritionist, believes, “This is what we do. We’re just doing our part for the health of the kids.”
Because staying healthy is an ongoing process, Esther and other nutrition center staff visit Isaac and his family on a weekly basis to make sure that Isaac continues his progress. Though the family still struggles economically, they now better understand the importance of making healthy choices through nutritious food and personal hygiene, a lesson that will help keep them and their children safe.