Good food for good growth

On her second birthday, Clarisse only weighed 6kg – half the normal weight for a child of that age.

Nickey Kanyinda Mputu (translated from French by Lucy Oyelade)
11 May 2020

“Her little feet swelled up, her hair became yellow, she didn’t have an appetite and she didn’t play anymore,” Clarisse’s mother, Arlette Mandiabu, remembers. As the days passed, her health deteriorated further. Arlette, not knowing what else to do, drove her daughter urgently to the Lumata health centre in the Haut-Katanga province.

It didn’t take long for the doctors to diagnose the problem: Clarisse was suffering from acute malnutrition. In January and February 2020, 2,888 cases of malnutrition were treated in the Haut-Katanga province.

“Several times, I held my breath, thinking that she was going to die,” says Arlette, who didn’t know if her daughter would survive the ordeal. The team at the health centre supported by UNICEF mobilised around the little girl, who was in a critical condition. Thanks to a therapeutic eating regime as well as adapted medical care, Clarisse started to gain weight and found her appetite.

Clarisse et sa maman

In four weeks, Clarisse gained 5kg and had nearly reached the normal weight for her age. Before returning home, the young girl was vaccinated to make sure that she could grow up in good health and without suffering from avoidable illnesses. Arlette received advice on giving the best food possible to her daughter by using local and accessible ingredients. Instead of the porridge made with cassava that she ate every morning, today she eats a more nutritious porridge made of maize, soya and palm oil.

“My child doesn’t fall ill as often as she used to,” Arlette explains with a big smile. Her young daughter who, a few weeks ago, wouldn’t play anymore, is today full of vitality and energy.

In 2019, UNICEF increased children’s vaccinations, birth registration, care for severe cases of malnutrition and community-based nutrition information in more than 200 villages in the Haut-Katanga province. Thanks to this convergence programme, the inhabitants of the targeted villages learnt how to appropriately eat local products and animals, to improve their hygiene and to respect the vaccination calendar in order to guarantee good health for their children.