A Child Recovers from Severe Malnutrition

UNICEF and partners continue to help ensure proper nutrition for children affected by Typhoon Odette

UNICEF Philippines, Samaritan's Purse
Baby Florencio with his parents at the hospital
Samaritan's Purse
25 July 2022

"We had no idea my child could have died from malnutrition,” Annalou said. Her youngest child Florencio was identified as severely malnourished at a mass screening conducted by UNICEF and Samaritan’s Purse in support of families severely impacted by Typhoon Rai – locally known as Odette.

The mother of five said that her family got by with her husband’s income of less than PHP280 ($5) a day as a construction worker. It had always been a challenge to feed a household of seven, and it got even more difficult after Typhoon Odette wreaked havoc in the Philippines in December 2021.

“Odette was a nightmare,” Annalou said. “We're used to strong rain and storms, but it was particularly frightening. It destroyed our home. Nothing was left. We only had the clothes we were wearing.”

Annalou’s family had to take refuge in an evacuation center and survive on food rations from the government and donations from private entities. “We appreciate the rice and canned goods we’ve been receiving, but those are the only things we consume,” Annalou said. “Florencio lost his appetite and wouldn’t stop crying.”

Nevertheless, Annalou assumed that her baby’s thin and small stature was normal for his age until he developed a cough and high fever.

Annalou with a healthier Florencio.
Samaritan's Purse
Annalou with a healthier Florencio.

During the malnutrition screening Surigao City, the team assessed Florencio to be emaciated and classified him as having severe acute malnutrition (SAM). He was immediately referred to the regional hospital for treatment.

“We were told that my child’s condition was life-threatening if not treated appropriately,” Annalou recalled. “We were terrified.”

The team regularly monitored Florencio’s status after he was admitted at the hospital and discharged two weeks later. Annalou was given a supply of Ready to Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF), a peanut-based micronutrient paste that is rich in vitamins and energy, and micronutrient powder in order to continue Florencio’s rehabilitation at home.

After two months, Florencio gained weight and his nutritional status returned to normal. "The RUTF is amazing. I've noticed the improvement since Florencio began eating it," Annalou said.

"The RUTF is amazing. I've noticed the improvement since Florencio began eating it"

Annalou, mother

Alma Aclo, the barangay health worker assigned in Annalou’s community, was grateful for the training she received that helped her to support Florencio’s rehabilitation.  “I was only recently appointed as a barangay health worker, and everything was unfamiliar to me,” she said. “I did not know how to properly identify a malnourished child. Our tools were also malfunctioning. I’m grateful to UNICEF and Samaritan’s Purse for including our barangay in their program. I learned a lot and it was all free. Their dedication to children has inspired me to do much more for my community.”

Through the program, community health workers were trained on outpatient treatment of severe and moderate acute malnutrition, issue referrals, conducting biennial malnutrition screenings in partnership with the National Nutrition Council, and how to conduct home visits.

Barangay Health Worker Alma Aclo
Samaritan's Purse
Barangay Health Worker Alma Aclo

“We received new anthropometric tools, medicine, and vitamins,” Alma said. “Their staff paid us visits on a regular basis. We are in one of Surigao City's most remote barangays, and we don’t usually get outside assistance. UNICEF and Samaritan's Purse came after Typhoon Odette and offered life-saving programs. Without them, children like Baby Florencio would suffer and might not survive.”

Now at 11 months old, Florencio has gained two kilograms from when he was first identified as severely malnourished. "We might have lost our youngest son if he hadn’t been screened at the evacuation center," Annalou said tearfully. "They reached out and helped us. Their regular phone calls and visits mean a lot to us, especially to me as a mother. I felt cared for and cherished." ###