Frank gets his life back

Thanks to the UNICEF supported therapeutic feeding programme in Uganda

By Robin Giri
UNICEF Uganda/2019/Emurot
31 May 2019

Severely malnourished child is nursed back to optimal health - thanks to commitment from the Government of Uganda, with support from UNICEF and the generous support of donors like UNICEF Kid Power Program.

One-year-old Frank Mika gurgles softly, while his mother Harriet Tasitwa bounces him gently on her knees. Harriet clicks her fingers and Frank looks up into the camera. His checks are full, and he has a healthy glow on his face.

About 12 weeks ago, the same Frank, then a little over 10 months old, was brought to the Young Child Clinic in Jinja with a high fever, diarrhoea and vomiting.

“He was sick and quite weak, when I brought him here,” says Harriet, looking away into the distance. She said she had been consulting with traditional healers in her neighbourhood on the outskirts of Jinja town, but that Frank’s condition kept deteriorating.

Frank was immediately admitted and Amina Nakyazze, the head nurse in charge of the Nutrition Unit and Paediatric Ward, shakes her head when she recalls the little boy’s admission.

“Frank weighed just over 3.4 kgs when we admitted him, and I was really concerned for him as he couldn’t even eat,”

says Amina.

In-patient therapeutic feeding programme

After Frank was treated for the diarrhoea and his fever subsided, he was first fed with F75, a therapeutic fortified milk, every two hours for a few days until he was much better, and until he passed the appetite test.

Then slowly, Frank was reintroduced to a formulated therapeutic diet for children suffering from acute malnutrition, also known as, Ready to Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF). The RUTF is an energy-dense, mineral and vitamin-enriched food that requires no preparation and is specifically designed to treat severe acute malnutrition. Since RUTF is not water-based, bacteria cannot grow in it and it can be used safely at home without refrigeration and in areas where hygiene conditions are not optimal.

After the little boy was cured of the medical complications and he was much healthier, Harriet and Frank were sent home with 36 sachets of the RUTF; 2.5 sachets per day for the next 14 days.

UNICEF Uganda/2019/Emurot

“After a few days after he started eating the peanut paste, he began to sit up on his own again,”

says Harriet, looking relieved.

All in all, Frank spent three weeks in the children’s hospital: almost a week to recover from the diarrhoea in the stabilisation ward, in addition to the first week where he was first admitted and treated for medical complications.

UNICEF Uganda’s nutrition section works closely with the Ministry of Health to support capacity building of health staff and provision of vital therapeutic foods such as F-75, and RUTF to identity, treat and prevent malnutrition in Uganda.

While Frank was recovering in the hospital, and eating RUTF and gaining some weight, his mother was counselled on preparing appropriate and nutritious food at home, utilising locally available food sources. She was also provided counselling on how to maintain proper hygiene and handwashing before preparing food and keeping her homestead clean.

The power of RUTF

He and his mother returned to the Outpatient Treatment Centre at the Clinic two times more, every 14 days. Every time, Frank and his mother visited, he was weighed and when the health staff were satisfied with his recovery, they were sent home with an appropriate number of RUTF for the next two weeks.

Today, Frank is weighed, and his mid upper-arm circumference measured again. He weighs 5.9 kg. and is 62 cm. tall, and his MUAC measurement is 12.9 cm. He’s now in the normal growth range and has gained more than one-third of his body weight since he was first admitted.

“Today marks six weeks since Frank was discharged from the hospital and his mother has been bringing him for evaluation every two weeks,” says Fahad Kayemba, the Nutritionist at the Young Child Clinic.

Frank and his mother are sent home, without any RUTF today: for he is completely cured, thanks to the power of RUTF.

UNICEF Uganda supports the Ministry of Health by providing medical and nutritional supplies, and training to health staff to identify, treat and prevent malnutrition among children under five. UNICEF is able to do this with the generous support of donors like the United States Fund for UNICEF.