“She was really bad. Sometimes she would swell up, she just wanted to be on my chest.”
Rebeca recalls the condition of her little daughter Annelia, before receiving nutritional support from UNICEF and its partners.
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The voice of 24-year-old Rebeca Lacayo, affected by hurricanes Eta and Iota in the Autonomous Region of the Northern Caribbean Coast, still trembles when she recounts the experience she had with her daughter, for whom she felt afraid of losing her. “She was really bad. Sometimes she would swell up, she just wanted to be on my chest. There were times when I felt like I couldn't anymore, I was giving up, but I wanted her to be okay. That was my motivation to keep fighting for her,” recalls the mother.
Everything changed for the family the day that as part of the emergency nutrition response, a day of height and weight measurements arrived in their community in Waspam in Nicaragua, inhabited by indigenous communities.
“They were measuring the children and helped those who were underweight,” recalls Rebeca, who took her daughter to be evaluated. The diagnosis was malnutrition.
Annelia's grandmother recalled how the little girl “just wanted to be in arms” and added: “She was sad all the time. She is a little girl who little by little changed, her health improved, now she doesn’t want to be in her arms, she wants to walk around, she wants to be ‘mischievous’ as a child, you can see in her face that she is a happy girl”.
UNICEF implemented actions at the community level for nutrition response in emergency situations, in alliance with its partners, based on the Core Commitments for Children in Humanitarian Action.
Malnutrition has a devastating impact on children’s lives, multiplying their chances of dying and preventing them from learning.
As part of the recovery efforts following hurricanes Eta and Iota, which hit Nicaragua in November 2020, urgent nutritional needs of children, pregnant women and nursing mothers were addressed with support from international donors.
More than 1,200 children recovered from malnutrition in five indigenous communities on the Northern Caribbean Coast: Kum, Wasla, Bihmuna, El Porvenir and Cabo Gracias a Dios. In addition, more than 21,000 pregnant and lactating women received nutrition counseling and care services for malnutrition prevention.
Family involvement was paramount to her recovery. “Although I work, when I am at home, I also take care of the girl, so her mother can rest,” explained Oliver Rojas, the girl’s father.
The community got involved through members of the health brigades. “I saw how she (the girl) was before, now she looks different, cheerful and it is not only because of the medicines, it is also because of the care of the family,” said Joaily Webb, a member of the community brigade.
Trainings were expanded to the field schools to teach how to prepare nutritious food with inputs from the community. UNICEF’s nutrition actions go hand in hand with water, sanitation, and hygiene interventions, delivering water filters to households.
Zinc sulfate, vitamin A, micronutrients, therapeutic food and incaparina -the main energy reserve of growing children- are also delivered; all these supplies were distributed through health posts in the five communities.
In this way, UNICEF contributes so that children under five years of age and pregnant and lactating women, especially in the most vulnerable communities and those affected by natural disasters, have access to essential services and programs for prevention and timely care in conditions of nutritional risk or acute malnutrition.