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Malawi, 23 January 2017: Konja recovers from malnutrition to a bouncy girl

© UNICEF Malawi/2016/Ntaba
Smiling at last- Konja after recovering from acute malnutrition.

By Doreen Matonga, Communication Officer, UNICEF Malawi

January 2017 – In June last year, at the peak of the hunger crisis, I visited Chikwawa district as part of a team that was documenting the effects of the crisis on children. The journey took us to Dolo Health Centre where a nutrition clinic was in session.

Attending the clinic were tens of mothers who had brought their children for malnutrition check-up and treatment. What I saw that day shocked me. There were many children who had signs of malnutrition, but one little girl stood out from the rest.

Dressed in a tattered light blue dress, she lay on a cloth wrapper under the shade, looking very frail. I could see the pain on her face as she writhed around. She had sores all over her body. She couldn’t sit by herself due to a bout of diarrhoea that had lasted months. Her very life was in the balance. This was Konja at 12 months.


© UNICEF Malawi/2016/Chikondi

Konja came to Dolo Health centre with her grandmother Jolita Dezmata, a peasant farmer grappling with the current hunger crisis. Jolita had walked almost 9km to the health centre to seek for treatment for her grandchild. The love of the grandmother, showed me how much she wanted Konja to live.

I talked to Jolita about the little girl. She told me that Konja’s mum was young and expecting her fourth child at the time. The hunger crisis meant Konja and her siblings were not getting enough food. The severity of Konja’s situation is what drove her to seek for medical help.

© UNICEF Malawi/2016/Chikondi
All Jolita wanted was for Konja to be healthy again.

Her situation was so critical such that the medical staff at Dolo health centre referred her to Nchalo Nutrition Rehabilitation Unit. This is the procedure followed for children who are malnourished and suffering from other medical complications to ensure that they get close medical attention as they are recovering.

Konja stayed in the Rehabilitation Unit for over a week receiving medication and therapeutic foods to cure her severe acute malnutrition. Since the day I met her, Konja has been on my mind and we have been following up with her grandmother. I revisited her in October. What I saw was a different girl to the one we saw in June. Konja was smiling, playing and able to sit on her own. She was bubbly and happy, a real story of turning a life around. I could hardly believe she was the same child.

As I look back on how we met Konja in early June, I can’t stop thinking of what could have happened to her. If it weren’t for UNICEF’s support to the district health office nutrition, funding the therapeutic milks and ready to use therapeutic food that saved her life, Konja’s story would not have had this happy ending.

© UNICEF Malawi/2016/Chikondi

Full of energy, Konja in a white t-shirt plays with her grandmother Jolita and her siblings.



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