Eight weeks-six months-two teeth

Six months after Akot recovered from severe acute malnutrition, he is walking, eating and playing.

Helene Sandbu Ryeng
A boy is sucking on a lolipop
UNICEFSouthSudan/Ryeng
15 April 2020

 

The first time we met Akot eight months ago, he couldn't stop crying. He was impossible to comfort and only slept when he was exhausted. He was suffering from severe acute malnutrition and in need of immediate help.

His mother, Anyang Kuol Ngor, took him to a UNICEF supported nutrition centre where he was admitted to the out-patient programme. Eight weeks with the main malnutrition medicine, ready-to-use therapeutic food, and the boy had fully recovered.

 

 

A boy's mid-upper arm is measured
UNICEF South Sudan/Wilson

 

Six months after he was discharged, Akot's situation has continued to improve. 

"He eats all the time, everything he can find he eats," Akot's mother Anyang says chuckling.

"He has also started teething," she says while pulling down his lower lip revealing the two newcomers.

 

A boy eating bread
UNICEFSouthSudan/Ryeng
Akot is eating bread for breakfast. According to his mother he eats everything he can find, a huge change from when he was sick and refused to eat anything.

 

After recovering from severe acute malnutrition, Akot regained his strength in his legs and started pulling himself up on his feet wherever there was something to hold on to. Now, he is dashing around outside their home in Aweil playing with his siblings and neighbors. 

 

 

A boy waving his hand
UNICEFSouthSudan/Ryeng
Akot is curious about the camera, and is waving to it before he starts chasing it

 

Another major change is that he has started talking. Last time we met Akot six months ago, he was gurgling like most babies. Now, he calls on his brothers and his mother.

 

 

A boy talking on his mobile
UNICEFSouthSudan/Ryeng
Akot is mimicking what the adults around him is doing, namely talking on the phone.

 

"As a mother, there is no better feeling than seeing your child healthy. I'm so glad to see my son is doing well," says Anyang while looking at her boy with mildness in her gaze.

 

A boy playing with a puzzle
UNICEFSouthSudan/Ryeng
Akot playing with a puzzle outside his home in Aweil

 

After Akot was discharged from the nutrition programme, UNICEF provided him with a few toys to stimulate brain development.  The first 1000 days of a life, including the time spent in mom's tummy, is the most important period for brain development. If a child is severely malnourished for longer periods of time within these 1000 days, stunted growth and brain damage can occur. Therefore, early childhood development tools such as puzzles are essential part of recovery.

 

A boy holding a lollipop
UNICEFSouthSudan/Ryeng
Akot enjoying a lollipop. Like most children, he has a sweet tooth.

 

In 2020, UNICEF expect 1.3 million children in South Sudan to suffer from acute malnutrition, close to 300,000 of them will be severely affected such as Akot. Over 1,100 UNICEF supported nutrition centres across South Sudan will handle most of these cases and more than 9/10 will most likely make it, just like Akot did. That said, more needs to be done to prevent children from getting malnourished in the first place. Denying children their right to health is not only affecting children directly, it will also affect the future of South Sudan. After all, these children are the future.

The UNICEF nutrition programmes are generously supported by USAID.