International Rescue Committee (IRC)

Feeding hope

After driving for 40 minutes across hot, arid land with some of my International Rescue Committee colleagues, I arrived at the Makatano Health Center, an unassuming three-room building filled with colorfully dressed mothers holding their swaddled babies. 

Sitting on the shaded bench in the center’s open-air waiting room, Ekitela and Nanyuduk Logiel wait patiently with their three daughters for their supply of Plumpy’nut, a vitamin-enriched peanut paste given to children under five as a treatment for severe malnutrition. The Logiels, like many families in this remote corner of northern Kenya, have been suffering through the worst drought to hit East Africa in six decades.

Ekitela, 38, rises to greet me as his wife, Nanyuduk, 28, breast feeds their seven-month-old daughter Muse. Next to her, the Logiel’s eldest daughter, Asekon, 10, keeps her arm protectively around the middle child, Lokor. I guessed Lokor to be around 18 months old. In fact, she is three years old. 

“The drought has really affected us,” Ekitela confided. “We used to have a few goats but they died.” He told me the family had relied on the goats for food and milk but now were struggling to feed their girls with the scant money they made by selling firewood. Dramatically rising food costs meant the family could only afford to share a pot of flour porridge at most meals. “It was not enough,” he said.
 
Soon the children began to fall sick. Lokor became severely irritable and suffered from diarrhea. Too weak to walk, the little girl was bedridden and could only drink water. “We thought she was going to die,” Ekitela whispered. 
 
The Logiels sought help for their girls at the Makatano Health Center, a 16-mile (27-kilometer) walk from their village of Kenyangaluk. There they learned about the emergency nutrition program operated by the IRC. IRC workers also train Kenyans who live in villages far from clinics to provide nutrition screening and health care to their neighbors. 
 
When her parents registered Lokor for the IRC’s nutrition program in late July, she weighed just 11 pounds (5 kilos). After ten weeks of supplemental Plumpy’nut rations, Lokor had gained nearly five pounds (2.2 kilos). To the delight of her parents, she can walk again and, when not scared by the presence of a stranger (yours truly), Lokor even smiles again. 
 
Lokor with her parents at the health center
 
Ekitela (seated) and Nanyuduk are grateful that 3-year-old Lokor
is well enough to walk and play again. (Photo: Jane Yang/IRC)
 
“When Lokor got sick, she avoided people and would cover her face with her hands,” her father told me. “Now, she is playing again.” 
 
The IRC also connected the Logiels with an emergency food program that provides regular supplies of grains, oil and salt along with basic nutritional education. The whole family’s health has improved as a result.
 
“The IRC has really helped us,” said Ekitela. “Otherwise, we would have lost our child. Now, I have hope and know that Lokor will grow into something good.”
 
Jane Yang is a communications intern with the IRC in Kenya.
 

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