Reaching malnourished children in Kenya...Ikimat's story

Saturday 13 May 2017

By Olivia Watson

Baby Ikimat now recovering at home

Baby Ikimat* is 2 years old and lives in Nakurio village in Turkana County, northern Kenya. Before receiving treatment she was severely malnourished and critically ill. She weighed just 4.7kg 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.

When Save the Children returned for a follow-up visit just one month later, Ikimat’s condition had visibly improved. She had gained weight, and her mother, 32-year-old Ngiyepok,* was smiling and happy.

Previously featured in London Mirror article:

Ikimat’s story as told by her mother

Ikimat was in such a bad condition when Save the Children came to provide medical care. I am so thankful that you came. She was very, very thin, so I am so pleased now.

Before, she was very sick for many months. I think for up to ten months. Now she is doing very well and has a very good appetite. She eats, any opportunity she gets. I wish that we had enough food to give her, though. That is the only problem – we don’t have enough food to give her. We just have some rice and chapatti, but not much else. But still she is really recovering well after the treatment. 

Baby Ikimat with her mother

Her mood is much better now. She is very playful! She plays all the time with the other children. The problem now is that she’s not able to walk very much yet. She’s been trying to walk as she gets stronger but recently she went to join the other children and she fell. Because her skin is fragile she wounded herself. So she can’t walk at the moment. But at least she is very playful and wants to join in.

I am so happy that Save the Children came and asked her father to bring her to the hospital. At first, he wasn’t sure that it was the right thing. But they assured him it was correct, and I told him too, and now he is very happy that Ikimat is so much better.
Staff comments

Vincent Opinya, a Nutrition Officer working for Save the Children, says the outreaches have given the team the ability to save the lives of severely malnourished children in remote locations like Ikimat. He says: “With the worsening drought, we are seeing many severe and moderately malnourished cases. With the outreaches, we are able to handle these cases in some of the most remote locations of Turkana County.”

Background Information

As a result of the death of livestock, on which people depended for meat, milk and income, approximately 344,000 children are now malnourished. The malnutrition rate in northern Kenya is exceeding 30% in some places. These numbers are set to increase if the drought persists. 2.7 million people in Kenya are already in need of humanitarian assistance, and this figure could increase to up to 4 million by the end of June unless further assistance is urgently provided.

As well as a shortage of food, children also lack access to safe drinking water, as the lack of rainfall leads to usual water points such as rivers and wells drying up. This can lead to disease outbreaks. Many of the children that Save the Children’s Emergency Health Unit (EHU) is treating are suffering from acute watery diarrhea.

In Turkana County in northern Kenya the EHU is working with the Ministry of Health in three sub-counties: Turkana Central, Turkana North, and Kibish, with a combined population of nearly 170,000 people. We are providing integrated health and nutrition outreach services at 50 sites across the three regions to locate children and pregnant and breastfeeding women who are malnourished and refer them for treatment, as well as providing reproductive services to women. We have established these outreach sites in communities that are located at least 10km away from existing functional health facilities in order to reach remote communities who are desperately in need of assistance.