KIHEFO promotes local initiated solutions to fight disease, ignorance and poverty in southwestern Uganda
When six month-old Edisa arrived at KIHEFO’s Nutrition & Rehabilitation Centre in Kabale on January 2nd, 2013, she weighed only 3 kg and, in the words of her grandmother, “didn’t even appear human.” Her arms and legs were frail, and her stomach swollen. Her bright eyes bulged from her tiny head. Edisa’s grandmother, Florence Kakyara, 60 years old, the sole caretaker, had nearly given up hope for her malnourished granddaughter after her daughter-in-law (Edisa’s mother) died on Christmas Day after suffering from the effects of HIV/AIDS.
Edisa’s poor health began as a result of her family’s struggle to cope with poverty and disease. After Edisa was born in the village of Nyakambu, her mother’s health declined drastically and she was unable to produce breast milk. She was forced to use the only food available to the family, porridge made from sorghum, to feed her infant daughter. The way sorghum porridge is prepared in Kabale makes it very difficult for a young child like Edisa to digest. As a result, Edisa failed to gain weight and grow as a healthy child, which prompted her mother to take her to the Kabale Hospital. At the hospital, Edisa’s mother was told that her daughter was underweight, and that she needed to feed her soft and nutritious foods, including milk, eggs, avocado and soybeans. Her mother left the hospital and returned home to the same reality of poverty, knowing that she could not afford the hospital’s recommendation. She had three children to raise, her husband was not helping to provide, and she was dying from HIV/AIDS. Overwhelmed with the odds against her, she died days later on Christmas Day – leaving Edisa and her two other daughters in the care of her grandmother, Florence.
With no other resources, Florence continued to feed sorghum porridge to Edisa, and the child’s condition worsened. Desperate for help, Florence brought Edisa to the Christian Canan Children’s Centre to be prayed for – fearing that her condition was brought on by evil spirits or witchcraft, which is a common cultural perception in Kabale.
Staff at the Canan Children’s Centre saw Edisa’s health condition, and were able to immediately identify it as a case of severe malnutrition. Over the years, KIHEFO has made endeavours in Kabale to sensitize community groups, including the Canan Children’s Centre, to fight disease and poverty. Due to an ongoing relationship built on trust and partnership, the Centre contacted KIHEFO to refer Edisa and her grandmother to the Nutrition & Rehabilitation Centre – a phone call that saved her life.
KIHEFO promptly received Edisa and Florence into the Nutrition & Rehabilitation Centre. For over a month, Edisa has been rehabilitated through a feeding program of soya beans, milk, avocado, and other soft nutritious foods. Florence, as her caretaker, has been trained to identify and prepare foods that are local, economical and rich in essential nutrients to help Edisa gain weight and grow stronger. Since arriving at KIHEFO, Florence has seen a dramatic improvement in Edisa’s weight and overall health. “Now you can see that she’s a person” she said, explaining that her greatest hope for Edisa was to grow healthy and strong, and one day become a doctor.
Today Florence is also the sole provider and caretaker for three other young grandchildren, and therefore, she must travel to and from her village of Nyakambu. It has not been an easy endeavour to stay at the Nutrition & Rehabilitation Centre. Florence, like many other women in Kabale, does not own land. She works as a farm laborer on other people’s land, earning a small income of roughly 7000 – 10,000 Ugandan shillings per plot ($2.50 – $4.00 dollars). Florence admits that her greatest worry is that she will not be able to provide the same foods she’s learned to prepare at KIHEFO when she and Edisa return home in the coming months.
In the future, KIHEFO will continue to support Edisa and Florence through ongoing follow-up and monthly outreach clinics held at the Nutrition & Rehabilitation Centre, every last Saturday of the month. At these clinics, caretakers and children who have been admitted in the past for rehabilitation benefit from free services, including assessment of progress and social counseling.
Today the Nutrition & Rehabilitation Centre has the space to house and rehabilitate upwards of twenty children; however, KIHEFO is in need of financial support to make this a reality. Your contribution can help save the lives of severely malnourished children in Kabale, Uganda, and provide necessary education and counseling to caretakers.
Edisa’s story is one of many – let’s take action together to provide a brighter, healthier future for children suffering from malnutrition.