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When one-year-old Faith started convulsing—one of the most dangerous symptoms of malnutrition—her mother feared it was too late to save her. She desperately searched for a solution, traveling miles from her one-bedroom home in Sigor, Kenya, to the closest health center.
When Faith was rushed to the hospital run by Action Against Hunger, she wasn’t just diagnosed with acute malnutrition. She was also found to be suffering from malaria and pneumonia. Healthy babies should be plump and pink-cheeked; Faith was so thin that her entire spine was visible beneath her skin. She clung to her mother, weak and tired.
“I felt really disturbed when I saw Faith’s condition,” recalls her mother, Rahema Chevet.
Rahema is her family’s breadwinner, responsible for finding work and earning money to feed Faith and several other children. It leaves her with precious little time to protect her children from the dangers of disease, poor sanitation, and hunger.
Three weeks after her admission to the hospital, Faith slowly begins to show improvements. She has transformed into a whole different child. Nurses at the health center cured her from malaria and pneumonia. To help her gain weight, they prescribed Plumpy’Nut, the calorie and nutrient dense peanut paste that helps children recover from malnutrition.
Before Faith became ill, Rahema was hesitant about Plumpy’Nut. She knew it was generally given to children at death’s door. But she quickly realized the gravity of her daughter’s situation—and how fast Faith was deteriorating.
“When I saw my child so weak, even her skin without any color, that’s when I realized I had almost lost her to malnutrition,” she says.
Rahema expressed endless gratitude for Faith’s recovery. In Sigor, many people struggle to find work. They pass their days doing casual jobs and selling what they can to make a living. It’s not easy, and the money is tight. Rahema nearly always struggles to buy enough food for Faith and the rest of her family. On these brutal days, she relies only on a prayer.
“Most people in my community cannot afford to buy nutritious food, and some parents aren’t even able to find assistance at all. Life here is tough. So I want to say—may God continue blessing the health workers who provide us with endless support,” she said.
Faith has now fully recovered. Her body is not quite as frail, her eyes shine, and her skin glows. She’s no longer considered acutely malnourished, according to her MUAC band measurements. The MUAC band measures a child’s upper arm circumference to determine their nutrition status. Faith is growing stronger every day, and she’s willing to release her grip on her mother to crawl around and play. After weeks of suffering, there is finally hope that she can return home.
Throughout Kenya, two-thirds of the population live in poverty. It’s more essential than ever to confront malnutrition, since a climate change-induced drought—the worst in 40 years—has rapidly spread across the Horn of Africa. Mothers just like Rahema are struggling with the sharp increase of food prices, the destruction of crops, and the death of livestock. Livestock provides income, meat, and—sometimes most importantly for children on the edge – a daily source of milk. As they die, families lose a vital source of nutrition.
Action Against Hunger has been working in Kenya for more than two decades. We focus on preventing and treating hunger and improving access to clean water. We’ve established health centers throughout northwest Kenya, keeping them full of experienced doctors and stocked with plenty of Plumpy’Nut. We reached 836,000 people with our health and nutrition programs last year and helped thousands of babies like Faith.
In many remote communities, mothers like Rahema have no access to healthcare or maternal services, and so we work hard to ensure inclusive access and teach women how to detect malnutrition sooner. Without this essential training, children might not have the same hopeful ending that Faith did.
Rahema now has a healthy and happy baby at home. She owes this success to a number of things—her own resilience and resolve, her quick timing, Plumpy’Nut, and the skill of Action Against Hunger’s staff.
"I can’t even imagine what could have happened if the health center wasn’t there"
At the end of the day, her trip to the health center was an act of faith – and it ended up saving her daughter’s life. While being the family’s breadwinner and dealing with the drought and other challenges, is not easy, she is grateful that Faith has a shot at life.
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