Eight weeks-six months-two teeth
Six months after Akot recovered from severe acute malnutrition, he is walking, eating and playing.
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.
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.
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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.