Baby Israel beats malnutrition
Lifesaving intervention enables Israel to recover from wasting and nutritional oedema
In May 2023, in the heart of Nduta Refugee Camp, Israel, aged 19 months, was diagnosed with severe wasting and nutritional oedema – a life-threatening condition – after losing his appetite and presenting with swollen legs and sunken eyes. Israel’s mother, Jane, 27, who came from Burundi to the camp three years ago with her five children, was overwhelmed by fear as Israel fought for his life.
Israel received a ray of hope from John Stone, one of the 66 dedicated Community Nutrition Volunteers (CNVs) stationed within the camp. John conducted measurements and screening for severe wasting and nutritional oedema at Jane's home. Israel was swiftly referred to the in-patient services offered under UNICEF's Integrated Management of Wasting Programme where he began receiving life-saving therapeutic milk and ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF).
Jane bravely shared the complex factors that contributed to her child's malnutrition, "I was married at 15, I was still a child. There were so many challenges, including Israel being born prematurely weighing less than two kilograms."
With only 20-months age gap between her second youngest child and Israel, and her current pregnancy, breastfeeding became a struggle for Jane, who remembered, "I suffered from anaemia and fatigue, and the pain, rashes and discomfort of breastfeeding meant I had to stop breastfeeding Israel after his first birthday".
Despite knowing the importance of frequent feeding and dietary diversity, Jane found herself grappling with the task of caring for her five children alone. Her husband had been missing for three years, leaving her to navigate this challenging path alone.
As a result of the round-the-clock care and support in both in-patient and out-patient settings, Israel’s condition dramatically improved, and he was discharged from the programme in July 2023, fully on the road to recovery.
The life-saving services and therapeutic food supplied by UNICEF’s Global Humanitarian Thematic Funding and delivered in partnership with the Tanzania Red Cross Society not only saved Israel's life but also brought back the joy of childhood to him. Israel now walks and plays with an infectious smile, free from severe malnutrition.
Jane’s experience of hardship and of having to leave her other children unattended when seeking nutrition and medical care for Israel, underscores the urgent need for solutions to bridge gaps in access, knowledge, service delivery, and nutrition practices. It is estimated that there are 1,500 cases of severe wasting and nutritional oedema in the two refugee camps – Nduta and Nyarugusu, every year. UNICEF remains steadfast in providing comprehensive support to mothers and their children, breaking the cycle of intergenerational malnutrition within communities, including refugees.
Almost 1,000 children with severe wasting or nutritional oedema were admitted into UNICEF's Integrated Management of Wasting Programme between January and June 2023, benefiting from life-saving treatment and support.