Little Mehrab fights hard to beat malnutrition
"She was very weak, her eyes sunken and could hardly afford the smile you see today."
One year old Mehrab Abdullah can afford a smile today. She will soon win a battle too big for a small girl like her.
Mehrab’s condition was different two weeks ago when she was admitted to Elfashier stabilization centre. Her whole body was swollen, her hair turned yellowish, and had high fever, diarrhea, and vomiting bouts.
“She was very weak, her eyes sunken and could hardly afford the smile you see today. She could hardly hold anything in her stomach and was unable to breastfeed,”
She worried that her daughter would not make it.
Unaware of what the cause of the sickness was, Mehrab was taken to Elfashier hospital where health workers confirmed she was suffering from severe acute malnutrition (SAM) with medical complications, a condition her first child never experienced.
Mehrab was admitted at the stabilization centre where she continues to recuperate. She has received treatment, fed on highly nutritious therapeutic milk and can now smile as she cuddles on her mother’s lap. Her smile is infectious.
At the centre, supported by UNICEF with financial assistance from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (BHA), Mehrab and several other children under five years battle with sever acute malnutrition. While many are recovering very fast, others remain in critical condition.
Upon admission the children are treated in two sections according to Howaida Omar the Nutrition Officer at the centre. While still ill and weak, they are admitted in phase one where they are fed on highly nutritious therapeutic milk (F75) and provided with treatment for medical conditions including ReSoMal for rehydration. In phase two, the children continue with anotherr type of therapeutic milk - F100 and introduced to the ready-to-use-therapeutic food (RUTF) if they pass the appetite test. The therapeutic food and care at the centre are all provided by UNICEF.
Mehrab is currently admitted in phase one. As she continues to enjoy the nutritious therapeutic milk coupled with breastfeeding, Mehrab will soon be moved to phase 2, since she is recovering very fast.
Mehrab and the children on the ward are just a fraction of those affected by severe acute malnutrition. In Sudan approximately 650,000 children suffer from severe acute malnutrition (SAM). Unfortunately, the numbers are projected to grow given the current economic situation, rising poverty levels and prolonged dry spells that have led to poor harvests.
The statistics hanging on the wall are testament to the crisis at hand. The admission numbers of children with SAM and medical complications are much higher than those registered last year, during the same period.
While children are treated, the nutritionists at the centre prioritize nutrition counselling sessions for mothers and caretakers on infant and young child feeding. They emphasize the dangers of malnutrition and how this can be prevented; benefits of breastfeeding; dangers of abrupt weaning of children which remains common; complementary feeding; hygiene; food diversity, among other topics.
One-on-one counselling sessions are also arranged in a newly established breastfeeding corner/room especially for mothers with breastfeeding challenges.
UNICEF Health and Nutrition Specialist, Afaf Mohammed Briema confirms that the nutrition counselling sessions have been key in improving proper feeding habits for children.
“Mothers learn a lot and put in practice what they have learnt. The change in behaviour is critical for sustained solutions,”
The nutrition workers confirm that Mehrab is responding positively to the treatment. As she prepares to leave the health facility in a few weeks, Mahasin is more than determined to put in practice what she learnt to ensure her daughter fully recovers. “I will continue breastfeeding my child until she is two years. The doctors told me this will help her recover faster and that breastmilk has many nutrients,” she shares with a smile. She promises to share the knowledge attained with fellow mothers in her community to ensure their children don’t experience what her child has endured.