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How UNICEF saved 4 year South Sudanese child from severe acute malnutrition

nutrition emergency response to south sudan refugees
© UNICEF Uganda
Abau sits with two of her children in her compound. Ruta (dressed in white) is now healthy and happy.
By Catherine Ntabadde Makumbi

Rujoyce Abau and her seven children spent 2 days walking from South Sudan to seek refuge in Uganda. Two months after they arrived to Uganda, her 6th child, Ruta, now 4 years old, started convulsing, vomiting and experiencing diarrhea.

Ruta’s body started swelling but Abua could not tell the cause. She visited a herbalist who provided her with local herbs, but the daughter’s situation did not improve, forcing her to visit a health centre in Bidibidi Refugee settlement in Yumbe district, West Nile.

Upon reaching the health centre, Ruta was assessed and admitted to that centre. Unfortunately, the situation worsened and the health workers referred the child to Tekulu hospital, where she was admitted for a month, with complications that required a blood transfusion. Once the complications were attended, Ruta was then admitted at the Inpatient Therapeutic Centre (ITC) of Tekulu hospital and started on treatment, including formula milk and medication for a week. She recovered and was discharged. The doctors provided her with RUTF (Ready to Use Therapeutic Food) to use at home for one week and requested Abau to return with the baby for growth monitoring.

“At some point, I saw this child dying and I had given up. I then remembered some neighbours had told me about a health centre in the settlement. When the child did not respond to treatment, I told God that it is okay for my child to die because I didn’t know what to do next. The doctors told us to go to a bigger hospital at Tekulu where Ruta was treated,” Abau explained while seating in her compound with Ruta and her last born.

Abau narrates that when she was discharged, the health workers reminded her of the importance of feeding the child on a balanced diet. She says they advised her to provide some eggs, meat, beans and greens to the children. Her worry was how to get money to buy eggs and meat. Despite the limitation, she is practicing some of the recommendations.

“All the children now try to eat a balanced diet. I am very happy that Ruta is healthy and eating well. There are people from Concern who came to visit me and check on the health performance of Ruta. I am very grateful to UNICEF and Concern,” she adds. Indeed, Ruta looks happy, healthy and smiles a little. She is now attending one of the UNICEF supported early childhood development centres in Bidibidi settlement zone 1, where she plays, learns and interacts with other children from the community.

UNICEF, through CUAMM, is supporting Yumbe District Local Government, offering quality services for treatment of severeacute malnutrition, supplementation of children’s meals with vitamin mineral powders and counselling on maternal infant and young child feeding.  UNICEF also undertakes screening for malnutrition at all border entry points. Other activities consist in procurement of nutrition supplies, and training and mentorship of district health workers and implementing partners.

These nutrition interventions are implemented in Arua, Adjumani, Moyo, Yumbe, Lamwo, Kamwenge, Kiryandongo, Koboko and Isingiro with funding from UKaid, European Commission’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Department and CERF.

The UKaid funds targeted 258,384 children under five, both from refugee settlement and refugee-hosting communities. Children and their pregnant and lactating women were able to access quality services for Integrated Management of Acute Malnutrition (IMAM), and Maternal, Infant and Young Child Nutrition and micronutrient services. UNICEF also focuses its efforts in ensuring sustainability of nutrition actions.

The EU humanitarian funding is targeting 198,850 beneficiaries, including refugees and host communities, to be reached with preventive interventions such as Vitamin A supplementation and deworming. Those children under five with severe acute malnutrition are reached with live-saving services. In addition, the funding is also supporting children to receive micro-nutrient powders to address the high prevalence of anaemia.

After acquiring knowledge from the health workers, Abau has since planted cassava, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, variety of vegetables, sorghum and maize. For every meal served, she provides vegetables to all the children. “I have acquired a lot of land to plant crops and vegetables. I can now provide vegetables regularly. My only worry is that Ruta keeps asking for meat, which I am not able to provide at the moment,” Abau says.

When a team from UNICEF and CUAMM visited her home, Abau was drying leaves of onions in her compound as a saucepan of beans mixed with greens was on fire boiling. Another saucepan contained cooked sorghum. She reveals that leaves of onions make a nutritious sauce.

Yumbe district Assistant District Health Officer in-charge of Maternal Health and focal point for Nutrition, Daisy Orodiyo, is grateful to UNICEF for the support in areas of finances, technical, supplies, trainings, mentorship and support supervision.

“All the government health centres in the settlements and host communities have equipment to support nutrition services for refugees and host communities. Although not enough, the available equipment has improved our work,” Orodiyo says.

She adds that nutrition services have been extended nearer to the beneficiaries and the communities are very appreciative of the service. “Initially we had few sites, but now each settlement has at least one treatment site for severely malnourished children. We also provide screening services at all entry points,” Orodiyo explains.



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