When malnutrition kills…slowly
“A year ago, Jeannette could not stand, let alone play with children. She was unable to eat and talk, always crying, and was just very thin and weak,” recalled Esperance, Jeannette’s mother.
Few would understand malnutrition’s worse effects, but not Esperance. Two of her 12 children died of kwashiorkor (protein-energy malnutrition). They were three and seven years old respectively. Five-year-old Jeannette is the family’s second last born. She suffers from stunting and is very short for her age.
Esperance, 45, still thinks that the fifth birthday of her daughter was a miracle. “I thought she was going to die. Even her hair colour changed and it turned orange.”
In the last few years, the family has been living in fear, sorrow, anger, bitterness and mourning.
Esperance and her husband are farmers. With so many children to look after, they hardly get 10,000 Rwandan francs (US$20) per year. They survive on farming for money or renting neighbours’ fields.
Their main source of income is agricultural wage labour. “We cultivate for others. Five to six hours of work pay us 500 francs (US$1),” said Esperance.
Agnes Mukamana, Health and Nutrition Manager for World Vision Rwanda said: “Malnutrition is a critical problem in Rwanda and it has a bad impact on children.”
She added that malnutrition ravages not only the body but also affects children psychologically. “Children with malnutrition don’t grow very well. Sometimes their mental capacity is impacted and they don’t perform well at school.”
Today, because of World Vision’s timely intervention, Jeannette is healthier and is on the road to better health. World Vision works hard to reduce prevalence of malnutrition and child mortality in all its projects around the world.
“She now weighs 15 kilograms and can walk,” said Esperance. “I’m grateful for World Vision. With the support and training we received, I’m confident that my family won’t have any more deaths related to malnutrition. I want Jeannette to go to school and have a better standard of living.”