World Vision International
article • Friday, August 25th 2017

In the face of starvation, this is what I believe

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JON WARREN/WORLD VISION World Vision Kenya staff nutritionist June Cherutich, with baby Charity Asibitar, who did not pass the appetite test at a Ready-to-use Therapeutic Food distribution in Lokichoggio in Turkana, Kenya and was admitted to the hospital.

 

Written by 
World Vision Kenya community nutritionist working in Turkana County  
June Cherutich

The mother struggled to breastfeed her child. The little one tried to suckle but there was no milk left. I could see her older sister, about 4, sitting quietly by. The girl’s eyes were yearning with desire to play with the other children but she could barely lift an arm. The family had no energy left. They could not remember the last time they had a meal.

Sadly, they are not alone. Over the last six months, I have witnessed a sharp and worrying increase in the number of malnourished women and children coming to health facilities.

In my work, we help pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, along with children under age 5 get nutritious food. World Vision tries to prevent women and children from becoming further malnourished. The number has spiked because of a devastating drought.

Children are the main casualties of this drought. Every day, I feel and see the real faces of hunger and despair. Many children I work with in Turkana south and east arrive at health facilities unable to walk due to poor nutrition. They are in desperate need.

The problem seems insurmountable but we cannot stop trying. This is what I believe.

On the frontline

I have personally felt the wrath of the scorching sun and heat in Turkana. I’ve watched the diminishing waters of the rivers dry up completely. I have seen livestock drop down and die in huge numbers.

I have met herdsmen as they search for the now-elusive pasture. I have smelt the rotting carcasses of their goats and cattle. I have heard heartbreaking stories of how their livestock dwindled and disappeared. I have understood their fear for their future, now that their means of earning an income has been lost. I have worried with them about what their children would eat.

I am on the frontlines, trying to help people experiencing the worst drought they have ever seen.

Often, I have felt like there is little I can do. But I cannot let down. This is what I believe.

Taking action

I am a nutritionist. I work in the area worst hit by this year’s drought. The people I meet at health centers are in desperate need.

Meeting them gives me motivation to act quickly and with passion. I want to ensure every malnourished mother and child I meet has something to eat that will at least sustain them for that day.

I work with my colleagues at World Vision and local health workers to prepare a blend of corn and soy, mixing them with water to make ‘uji’. We add a peanut-butter based nutrition pack that includes powdered milk, vegetable oil, and more vitamins and minerals to create a super-cereal meal to sustain children and women presenting the worst cases of malnutrition.

As one in three children are severely malnourished in parts of Turkana south and east, we aim to provide this food to all pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, and children under age 5 at 90 health outreach sites. By ensuring every child and pregnant women has this superfood, we want to prevent the number of malnutrition cases from growing even further and stop existing malnutrition cases from getting worse.

While our goals are lofty, there is a lot of work to do. The food we been given has only been enough to reach 26 of the health outreach sites. I tell myself that what we are supplying is better than nothing.

I know there is more need out there and we cannot slow down. This is what I believe.

Every child deserves a chance

Here’s why I believe what I believe: Every child deserves a chance in life, despite where he or she was born. I do not see a child and think ‘this child could have been a doctor’ when they are ill. In my work with World Vision, I have reshaped my worldview and now think ‘when this child becomes a doctor.” Mine is not a world of “ifs” anymore. Mine is a world of “when”.

I will always remember that mother unable to breastfeed her child and how her older daughter was unable to play with other children as I do my work. The memory keeps me going even when I am tired or hot or discouraged.

In the face of starvation, this is what I believe.

 

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