A towering community nutrition worker
His name, Akoon Akoon, means elephant in the Dinka language, but there is nothing about his physical appearance that remind you of one. On the contrary, his waist is small but the reassuring smile on his face and his tireless efforts for children suffering from acute malnutrition are grand and everyone in Aweil town know his name. Most people just call him “the malnutrition doctor”.
Early, every morning, you find the tall young man at Gabat nutrition centre in Weil where he serves as a community nutrition worker for Action Against Hunger (ACF), one of UNICEF’s implementing partners.
“To serve all visiting beneficiaries, work must begin at the centre by 8am, just because the clinic receives more patients than other nutrition centres in the vicinity of the town,” Akoon says
You often see him at the center with a devise in his hand, but rest assured he is not surfing through his Facebook feed. He is entering patient data into the database. Every person at the clinic is passing through his station and therefore he knows everyone, which has become key to detect fraud attempts.
“Some caretakers are trying to register their children multiple times using different names to get more therapeutic food,” he explains. “Double registration of beneficiaries is a common problem and leads to waste of nutrition supplies.” More than once have a mother or a father cursed him after detecting fraud attempts, but his calm nature helps his respond without renegading from professionalism. “I simply explain to them that the sachets with ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF) is treatment and not food distribution.”
Akoon is so tall, he had to adopt the habit of bending head and back when entering through a door early on. This is something he get to practice every weekend when doing voluntary home visits, checking up on children suffering from malnutrition. He is also making sure the children in the household are not sharing the ration of RUTF for the sick child and that the parents are not selling the RUFT at the market- all common issues that delay the child’s recovery. Because of his extra efforts, more children are recovering from malnutrition faster.
One time when he was doing monitoring in Madiria one estate with UNICEF, he came across a mother with her malnourished child on her back and a bag full of RUTF. She also had some money from the sale in the market. Not only did she sell the RUTF, she had also registered at two clinics to get double up of RUTF. Akoon increased the number of home visits and within one month the child had recovered.
Everyone who meets Akoon can tell he is passionate about children and nutrition. He studied nutrition at Nairobi Aviation College but is aiming at getting a university degree in nutrition. So, instead of looking for a wife and start a family, he is saving up money for a Bachelor in Human Nutrition and Dietetics with a university in Kenya.
“It is very expensive to study in a Kenyan university, but I am determined to do so. Now, I’m saving up money to reach my dreams,” Akoon says.
I’d say, any nutrition centre would be lucky to have him. He has a passion for his job, and nothing will prevent him from doing his best. He is like a man of the match in Premier League. Akoon is THE man you can always trust will do what it takes fighting stunting and wasting in children in Aweil.
UNICEF's nutrition programmes are generously supported by USAID, EU/ECHO and UKAid