Something to chew on

Something to chew on

One of the practical health issues that we encounter regularly in the slum communities around Kampala is malnutrition. It’s such a prevalent issue that at any one time our team could be dealing with a handful of serious cases in each community we work in. It is one of the most frustrating challenges that we encounter – being, for the most part, easily preventable, yet nonetheless lethal if not acted upon. However, at the same time the visible results of action being taken are so unmistakably significant that there is great satisfaction in seeing life restored to a frail and limp shell of a human being.

The World Health Organisation says that worldwide, “around 45% of deaths among children under 5 years of age are linked to undernutrition.” This shocking statistic is, of course, most evident in low – and middle – income countries, with poverty amplifying the risk of, and risks from, malnutrition. At the same time, it is a preventable disease and we want to do all we can to do just that wherever we work! Through a combination of intervention, referral, social support and teaching, we aim to identify and take action in severe cases, avert others before they develop and put families on a firm footing for the future.

Community Health Champions

A typical case would be one like that of Amina and her son, Eli. While visiting Banda slum, our team were met by one of our Health Champions for the community (the Champions are individuals from the neighbourhood who have received basic training in how to recognise common illnesses in the area.) She told the team that she had met a nearby family with a child whom she suspected was malnourished. The Every Life nutrition team met Amina and her family that very afternoon. As she poured out her confusion, desperation and fear, Amina burst into tears, ashamed by the sorrowful state of her son Eli and afraid for his life. The team offered to pray, which was eagerly accepted and we then discussed with the mother about her child’s condition and finally referred her to Mwana Mugimu, a free nutrition unit in the local hospital.

Conducting an assessment

During Eli’s stay in hospital, the team regularly checked up on both him and the family. They monitored his progress and ensured that Mama knew what was necessary in a balanced diet and how she could best achieve it on what the family earn. When he was discharged as stable and well enough to leave, we encouraged the family through home visits, social support and ongoing assessments of Eli. We can happily say that he has greatly improved and is now a healthy and bouncy one-year-old. Not only did we see this visual transformation but Amina told us that the family’s joy has been restored!

“…for you have been my help,
    and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.”
Psalm 63:7