Severe Acute Malnutrition: More Than Being Hungry
Written by Saving Moses Communication’s Coordinator, McKenzie Thompson
We see the effects of this disease on babies and toddlers every single day at our malnutrition feeding clinics in Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo. We see their hair get lighter and become brittle, their skin begin to peel, and oedema take over their bodies, causing their hands, feet, faces, and stomachs to swell. We see the toll it takes on them, their mothers, their fathers, or their caregivers. We see how it slowly strips not only their lives away, but their hope and joy as well. While it is a hard topic to talk about, we see that there is a significant need for help in these parts of the world and believe that talking about it is the first step to the cure. Sadly, this is all too real for these little ones. This is the harsh reality that they face every day.
Severe acute malnutrition is the most extreme and visible form of malnutrition in children. It can be defined as a very low weight for height (below -3z scores of the median WHO growth standards), by visible severe wasting, or by the presence of nutritional oedema, according to the World Health Organization.
There are many misconceptions when it comes to severe acute malnutrition. It is more than just hunger.
It is the lack of nutrients needed to literally keep your body growing healthy, and it comes with terrible symptoms like I mentioned above. It’s not knowing when your next meal will be or if there will be one at all. Especially for babies and toddlers, getting the right amount of nutrients is vital for them to grow during the early stages of their lives. It is a life or death situation for them.
This is what drives Saving Moses. In our clinics, we know that we can save almost every baby from the tragic results of malnutrition and this motivates us more than anything!
Did you know that malnutrition is a 100% preventable disease? Yes, you read that right. It is 100% preventable. Meaning, there is no reason any baby or toddler should ever have to endure it, yet it is the cause of 50% of childhood deaths in lower to middle income countries…
How could a disease that is so easily preventable, [be a disease that so easily] takes the lives of precious babies and toddlers?
The answer is simple: lack of resources. In countries like where we work, there are several factors that contribute to the high mortality rate caused by this disease.
In some of the babies we see at our clinics, their malnutrition is due to a lack of education or cultural beliefs. Some mothers do not understand the basic necessity of breast feeding their babies, especially in the early stages of their lives. Other mothers believe their baby’s disease is a curse that has been placed on them. Often, by the time they realize their baby should be taken to a clinic, he/she dies before they can finish treatment because it is too late. It breaks my heart when I think about it.
For many reasons, we are increasing our community outreach efforts. The more information we can spread about malnutrition, what causes it, and how we can help, the more mothers and fathers will trust us and bring their babies to our clinics while we still have a chance to save them.
So, how do we help once they arrive? Our malnutrition feeding clinics provide babies with therapeutic milk. This isn’t the standard formula available at the grocery store. Therapeutic milk is packed with nutrients that quickly restore baby’s bodies back to healthy. We also can send home a special type of formula for them to drink after they have completed treatment at our clinic, that helps them continue to grow. One of our favorite success stories from our malnutrition clinics is about our little friend named Belito. You can learn more about his story here.
The work we do at Saving Moses is important. It is essential. It is saving lives.
Will you join us on this mission to save the world’s most vulnerable population?