Severely malnourished Gladys Manuel is back on her feet

By Lulutani Tembo, UNICEF Malawi

Rita with a healthy-looking Gladys. She is all smiles after recovering from severe malnutrition
© UNICEF Malawi/2019/Lulutani Tembo

In the outskirts of the city of Lilongwe, lie rural areas where families struggle to meet basic needs. This is where 2-year-old Gladys Manuel lives, in Chikuse village TA Malili. She is the second born in the family of two. Her mother, Rita Luwe (23 years old) got divorced when Gladys was only 9 months old. Life has not been easy for a young single mother to take care of the two children.

Rita does piece works for a living and the money she makes is not enough to ensure her children have a healthy diet, let alone 3 meals a day. “I do maganyu (piece works in Chichewa) on people farms in our area. Sometimes I make about 2000 kwacha in a week or a month, depending on when the farm owner decides to make the payments,” Rita says with a distressed face.

To make things worse, she didn’t manage to harvest enough maize during the last harvesting season as her family felt the effects of climate change with no enough rains among other challenges. This contributed to Gladys falling sick. “I noticed my child had a high temperature, her feet got swollen and her appetite was erratic. I felt so sad because I didn’t know what was wrong,” says Rita. Rita decided to take her daughter for treatment. She endured a 3 hour walk to Likuni Mission Hospital.

Gladys was admitted to the outpatient-therapeutic programme (OTP) as she was being treated for malnutrition and was given plumpy nut (ready-to-use-therapeutic food).

Despite receiving assistance, Gladys’s condition kept deteriorating. Rita noticed that her daughter’s hair texture was becoming pale, and she developed sores on her body. She couldn’t even play outside with her friends.  The care group cluster leaders in the community advised Rita to take Gladys back to the hospital for treatment.

Upon arrival at the under- five department, health workers welcomed them. When Gladys was assessed, she was diagnosed with severe malnourishment and needed to be admitted to the Nutrition Rehabilitation Unit (NRU). She was admitted on 25 May 2019. “When my child was admitted, I was anxious, but I had hope, that she’ll get the right assistance and recover soon,” Rita describes.

Rita and her family in her backyard garden
© UNICEF Malawi/2019/Lulutani Tembo

Healthy again!

After undergoing treatment Gladys was well again and was discharge on 10th June 2019 after being in hospital for 3 weeks. Rita was overjoyed that her daughter had recovered and was strong again.

To make things better, Rita has the support of her mom, Mrs. Luwe. Mrs. Luwe lives 5 minutes away and is a cluster leader in their community care group that is supported by German Development Bank KFW.  “Being a cluster leader, I teach my child about the six food groups, it’s just that poverty makes life hard. Now I’ve encouraged my daughter to have a backyard garden, so she doesn’t have to worry about buying food for her children and family,” says a bubbly Mrs. Luwe. “I also advise her on hygiene practices, to make sure her household practices hand-washing after using the toilet and before eating.”

Now that Gladys is back on her feet, Rita is adamant to keep her healthy by making sure she eats well. “I have learnt a lot about the six food groups and how to take care of my child. These days when I prepare porridge for my baby, I mix it with other foods such as and crushed nuts and vegetables. I am also confident that the backyard garden I’ve put together will help my family. After selling some of the vegetables I will be able to use the money to buy other foods,” Rita explains joyfully.

Support from KFW and UNICEF

With support from KFW, UNICEF helping the Government of Malawi to assist pregnant women, mothers and under 5 children with good nutrition. The overall aim of the project is to reduce stunting in children by improving their nutritional status. It also integrates water and sanitation to achieve better results.  The support from KFW enables care-group members to reach out to the communities with nutrition advice and products.

“It is important that children are provided with good nutrition from the time the mother conceives up until the child is five years old. It is also important to ensure that the mothers have a nutritious diet, especially when they’re breastfeeding,” says UNICEF Chief of Nutrition Sangita Jacob Duggal. There is also a close relationship between stunting and poor water, sanitation and hygiene facilities. “A well-nourished child may become stunted if exposed to contamination from poor hygiene in the home,” she adds.

Follow this link to see pictures of Gladys’s journey:

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