Yvonne, nutrition focal person for the Bamenda area was taking a walk along the road when she noticed a little boy moving along the street with a man. The boy was pale, skinny and had reddish hair. With a glance at his physical look, she could clearly see symptoms of malnutrition. She could not resist moving towards them.
Kimbim is a 1year 3months old boy living with his parents and older brother in Bamenda, the capital city of the embattled Northwest Region of Cameroon. Unlike many malnourished children, the parents of Kimbim are among the few who have not been severely affected by the economic hardship brought about by the armed conflict ravaging the Region. Despite the crisis, they are both flourishing business people and are therefore capable to provide a healthy life for their kids. Unfortunately, this was not reflected on the physical looks of baby Kimbim.
In an attempt to save Kimbim’s life, Yvonne could not help but engage in a conversation with his dad about his son’s health. Luckily for her the man was open for discussion and welcomed the conversation. She explained to him that his son might be suffering from malnutrition and encouraged him to have his son screened for it. It didn’t take long for the boy’s dad to agree to go for the recommended screening. As anticipated by the nutrition focal person, the results turned out to be positive. The boy weighed – 6Kg and his Mid Upper Arm Circumference (MUAC) was 11cm, which were clear indicators of malnutrition.
It was a sad and heartbreaking situation for Kimbim’s parents because they knew they had the financial means to provide their children with nutritious food, clean water and healthcare. Great was their surprise to see that their son’s case was refuting their assumption. Even though they had the resources needed to provide him a healthy life, they discovered he was malnourished because they lacked knowledge on appropriate child nutrition and care.
Kimbim’s case comes as an eye opener to the fact that malnutrition is not always as a result of poverty, but also as a consequence of limited information and knowledge on good nutrition practices, especially at the early stages of a child’s development. Armed with the newly acquired knowledge and skills on the importance of balanced diets in the physical and mental development of their son, Kimbim’s parents resolved to fully cooperate with the nutrition counselor and the hospital in the process of Kimbim regaining his health. After two weeks of treatment, Kimbim’s weight moved from 6kg to 12kg and his MUAC changed from 11cm to 13.5cm. After two months, a follow up was done and Kimbim’s condition was satisfactory. However, he has grown accustomed to Ready to Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) so much so that he was refusing to eat other foods. As a result of this, Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) training was reestablished to teach his mother practical ways to feed him.
After Kimbim’s transformation, his mother resolved to go on a crusade against malnutrition. To achieve her goal, she spoke about malnutrition in their quarter meeting, teaching other women how to prepare balanced diets for the normal growth of their children. To walk the talk, she decided to identify children presenting with signs and symptoms of malnutrition in her vicinity and educated their parents. She went further to prepare extra nutritive baby food for the identified children.
Kimbim’s parents were overjoyed watching their son’s daily transformation. Expressing their gratitude, Kimbim’s father said through his son, he has ascertained the adage that knowledge is power. He went on to assert that it saved his son’s life.
By Vivian Maku