Baby Ikimat* ...there is still much work to be done
By Bella Nyamamu, photos by Roland Leon (london Mirror)
Baby Ikimat* is 22 months old and lives in Nakurio village in Turkana County, northern Kenya. Before receiving treatment she was severely malnourished and critically ill. She weighed just 4.7kgs and her body was agonisingly bloated by fluid retention from malnutrition. The circumference of her upper arm was just 8.3cm, the same size as a 10p coin. She looked months younger than her age, her limbs were wasted and her skin hung loosely on her body.
“Ikimat was identified and enrolled in the Outpatient Treatment Unit (OTP) on 16th February 2017. But she is losing more weight and her situation is moving from bad to worse,” said a health worker at Nakurio health centre.
Ikimat is the fourth born in a family of five children. Her mother, 32 year old Ngiyepok*, recently delivered her fifth child, now three weeks old. She says: “I went with Ikimat to hospital early this year and I stayed there for six days. She was not eating at all. She was treated and got better but we incurred more bills and I had to leave hospital.”
Ngiyepok says she sells charcoal and uses the money to buy food. “When I have not sold anything, we stay hungry. Our goats died early this year, so we don’t get milk anymore. Sometimes we get food brought by the government, but it’s been one month since we received the food.”
Now, in late March, Ikimat is with her 10 year old sister, Akuwam*, who has walked for 12km to collect nutrition supplements from Nakurio health centre in the 42 degree heat. Akuwam says: “My mother cooks rice sometimes but the smaller children must eat first. Sometimes I get food and sometimes we just stay hungry.”
Vincent Opinya, a Nutrition Officer working for Save the Children, says the outreach has enabled the team to save the lives of severely malnourished children like Ikimat. He says, “With the worsening drought, we are seeing many cases of malnutrition. With the outreach, we are able to handle these cases in some of the most remote locations of Turkana County.”
Save the Children is already helping … but there is still much work to be done
The drought across Kenya has left 2.7 million people severely food insecure, and Turkana county in northern Kenya currently has the highest number of people in urgent need of food, hosting 1 in 10 of all malnourished people in the country. Save the Children has deployed an Emergency Health Unit and is conducting outreach activities to screen children for malnutrition, provide healthcare to pregnant and lactating mothers, and offer much needed primary healthcare services to the population.
Thanks to Save the Children, Ikimat is currently recuperating at the stabilisation centre in Lodwar Referral hospital.
Unfortunately Ikimat’s situation is not unique, and we need urgent action by the government, donors and partner organizations if we are to continue providing treatment for malnutrition and saving children’s lives.