Over the past four trips that we have made to our malnutrition clinics in Angola, we have met a lot of young single mothers who were struggling to keep their baby alive. This is an all too common situation among women in Angola, and it is always a difficult scene to watch. However, not every situation fits into the same mold, as we were reminded during our recent trip to our malnutrition clinic in Catumbela.
This is Raul Donde. At about three months old, he weighs less than many babies do at birth: only seven pounds. Raul is currently receiving treatment at our clinic in Catumbela for an extreme case of malnutrition. While his malnourished state is not uncommon among the rural communities of Angola, what makes Raul special is an incredible gift that many of these babies are not fortunate enough to know: his family.
Raul is the youngest of six children. He is blessed with a brother, four sisters, and very loving parents.
These are Raul’s parents, his mother Maria and his father. Maria is 35 years old and is one of the most amazing women that we have ever met. Her pride in her children is as clear as her warm smile, and she is one of the very few women among the clinic who has never lost a baby. Maria and her family live far from the malnutrition clinic in a very small home, without electricity or running water. She is very involved in her church and is currently taking literacy lessons. Maria is a dedicated mother who is working hard to make a better life for her family.
With Raul clinging to life as he receives treatment at our malnutrition clinic, it can be hard to understand how and why he reached this point. He lives in a family of eight with a brother who is old enough to have his own family, and his mother is not a young woman in her teens or early twenties. Why is he malnourished?
The answer is eye opening.
The majority of families in Angola do not have the luxury of going to a grocery story. There is nothing conveniently marked “baby formula” for mothers to give to their babies. In most areas of Angola, families go to the marketplace for their food, and no marketplace has baby formula. The closest these mothers can possibly get is powdered milk, which does not have any of the special nutrients that a healthy baby, not to mention a malnourished baby, needs to grow and develop.
Because of this, mothers are left with only one option to feed their baby: breastfeeding. Unfortunately, not all mothers are able to do this, which leaves them with no way of feeding their baby the nutrients they need. Sadly, too often they are unable to prevent the rapid decline to malnutrition.
This is why our malnutrition clinics are so important in Angola. At our six malnutrition clinics, we are honored to treat over 200 babies a month who are near death. We give babies like Raul a chance to survive, so that mothers like Maria can watch their children grow.