Empowering health workers to save lives…Baby Farhiya’s story

Tuesday 17 October 2017

By Daniel Wanyoike

Baby Farhiya with the mother

The current drought affecting counties across Kenya is getting worse and children like Farhiya have not been spared. We met Farhiya in March 2017. At just 11months old Farhiya had been diagnosed with severe acute malnutrition and referred to Wajir County referral hospital for further treatment. Farhiya and her family live in Lagbogol settlement in Wajir County, northern Kenya. The area has a population of approximately 8,654 residents. The residents rely on Lagbogol dispensary for all their medical needs as it is the only health facility in the area. 

According to James, a nurse at Lagbogol dispensary, cases of malnutrition have been on the rise as the drought situation gets worse. 

Save the Children through the UNICEF-EU funded Maternal Child Nutrition Program (MCNP) is working in partnership with the department of health at the county level to support training of health workers to manage cases of malnutrition, strengthen capacity of the county to plan and budget for health care delivery, influence health seeking behaviour among community members and encourage their involvement in health planning and monitoring. This has enabled health workers to successfully manage health complications and communities are more aware of good health, nutrition and hygiene practices.

In their own words 

“Farhiya was only 11 month old when she was brought into the hospital with complains of diarrhoea, cough and she had no appetite. On examination she was severely malnourished weighing only 3.9kgs, with a Mid Upper Arm Circumference (MUAC) of 9.6cm. Normally a child her age should weigh at least 10Kgs and the MUAC should be at above 12.5 cm. Being severely malnourished, too weak and with medical complications it was necessary to refer her to Wajir county hospital for admission and further treatment,” says James a nurse at Lagbogol dispensary

“Farhiya could not eat, nothing went through her mouth. At Wajir hospital, she was given antibiotics and food supplements through tubes,” adds James.

Shabaana, Farhiya’s mother says: “I gave up, there was no milk to breastfeed her, she got sick and weak. I was waiting for her death. It is the chief who talked me into taking her to the hospital for treatment."

James says the trainings they have received through the MCNP project have enabled them to confidently identify and handle cases of malnutrition. “We are only four staff members and three of us have been trained on management of acute malnutrition. The trainings have helped us to save lives and we are managing well. We now see more patients coming in compared to the previous years. However if cases are too severe, we still refer to Wajir county referral hospital because they have a stabilization centre to manage inpatients.”

Farhiya with the mother

“Farhiya and her mother stayed in hospital for one week, when she got better they were discharged and we enrolled them into the outpatient therapeutic programme at Lagbogol dispensary,” says James. 

Abdullahi, Farhiya’s father has seven children. He is a pastoralist and spends most of his time looking after his animals with the help of his sons. He says: “When Farhiya was taken to the hospital I was not at home. I learned of her admission through a friend. I rushed back home and joined my family at the hospital in Wajir town. I left the animals under the care of my sons.”

“The nurses in the hospital did very well. Now my daughter is back to life and smiling again. I will continue visiting the hospital every time she gets sick and I will encourage others to do so,” says Shabaana.

James, the nurse incharge at lagbogol dispensary says: “We made sure there was someone to follow-up regularly. We use community structures to help us. So we assigned a Community Health Volunteer (CHV) to conduct home visits to ensure that Farhiya feeds on plumpy nut and takes all her supplements as advised and to report any further complications observed.  Within one month after starting the treatment, Farhiya’s weight had increased to 4.9kg. She had better appetite and no other illnesses such as diarrhoea and coughing. We were able to get the nutritional supplements on time thanks to Save the Children for their tireless support.” 

Farhiya is now 18 months. When Save the Children staff visited, they found her to be in good health.  Her weight had increased to 7.2kgs (by June 2017).  Farhiya’s mother says: “I am happy Farhiya is better. Getting food is not easy with this drought. She is still feeding on plumpy nut and we buy milk for her whenever we can afford.”

Project information:

Since December 2015, Save the Children in partnership with the County Department of Health has been implementing the UNICEF EU-funded Maternal Child Nutrition Programme. The project aims to address poor health and nutrition status resulting from low health seeking behaviours, weak health systems, low capacity of the county to plan and budget for health care delivery and the lack of community involvement in health planning and monitoring. The project has so far reached 280,591people in Wajir County, educating them on good health, nutrition and hygiene practices. 115 nurses and nutritionists have also been trained by the Ministry of Health with support from Save the Children. 

The project is also working closely with the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and other sectors within the counties to build a solid resilience base within communities thus strengthening their ability to spring back to normalcy in case of drought related emergencies.  This includes advocacy efforts to ensure the County Government invests in nutrition.