Samaritan’s Purse is teaching mothers how to keep their babies and children healthy.
He cried relentlessly throughout the night, struggled with a persistent cough, and had no appetite.
“We did not know why he would not stop crying,” said Nilma, the child’s mother.
Nilma decided to ask for help from Mailyn, a community health worker trained by Samaritan’s Purse in the Philippines. Mailyn could tell that Ziyad, or Baby Z as he is affectionately called, was malnourished the moment she saw him.
“He had a high fever and would not eat. I was worried that the family might lose him,” Mailyn said.
Samaritan’s Purse teams had trained Mailyn in topics related to maternal and child health, including how to assess babies and children for malnutrition. “Baby Z was terribly emaciated. He weighed only 4.6 kilograms [about 10 pounds], which was less than half the weight of children his age,” she said.
Baby Z’s family lives at a relocation site for internally displaced persons on the southern island of Mindanao. The family, along with thousands of others, had to flee their home in Marawi City after it was attacked by Islamist rebels with ties to ISIS.
Since then, making ends meet has been a challenge, making it difficult to give proper attention to their child’s nutritional needs. Nilma and her husband used to earn a decent income selling fruits and vegetables, but they lost all their savings and source of income in the wake of the violence. Now, Nilma’s husband has moved to a neighboring city where he works part-time as a delivery assistant and earns less than $6 per day.
“A small and thin child is often considered normal here,” Mailyn explained. “The mothers are often unaware of the need for nutrition evaluation.”
Mailyn informed both the local health facility and Samaritan’s Purse staff about Baby Z’s condition. “The health unit is short on both manpower and medicine,” she said. “Having Samaritan’s Purse on our side has filled in many of the gaps in our community. I saw how concerned and dedicated they are to the recuperation of the child.”
Mailyn gave Nilma micronutrient packs for Baby Z and also taught her about proper vitamin intake, healthy hygiene, and the importance of regular wellness check-ups. The child’s condition improved after only a few months of intervention.
“He will never be malnourished again,” Nilma said as a proud mother, “because I am now equipped with support, trainings, and counseling from Samaritan’s Purse.”
Baby Z continues to recover from severe malnutrition and his weight is catching up to where it needs to be. Mailyn is still working with Nilma and monitoring his improvement. “Our community is grateful to Samaritan’s Purse for their support,” Mailyn said.
“He will never be malnourished again.”
Samaritan’s Purse has also started mother-to-mother groups to help Nilma and others learn about the best food for newborns and children, how to keep themselves healthy during pregnancy, and the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding.
Transforming a Community
Baby Z’s recovery helped area parents realize they did not have to be ashamed of malnutrition and they could take steps to help their children get healthy.
“Everyone in the community knew about Zyiad’s case. I now believe that a malnourished child can be healthy again,” said Aliah, whose daughter, Jhaira, was also underweight for her age.
Aliah and her husband struggle to provide for their nine children. Aliah works at a small shop near their home and her husband is a driver. They both earn minimal income. “Our way of living is truly so hard, but we keep on working because we have many children to care for,” Aliah said.
“I now believe that a malnourished child can be healthy again.”
Aliah joined one of our mother-to-mother groups and began working with our teams because she wanted to help her daughter recover—just as she had seen happen with Baby Z. Aliah was dedicated to attending the meetings and to implementing the healthy practices taught by our staff.
“We are no longer struggling alone on how to keep our child healthy; instead, we are privileged that Samaritan’s Purse supports us with health and nutrition education.”
Now, not only is Jhaira well on her way to recovery, but Aliah’s other children are also benefiting from the parenting knowledge their mother has gained.
“The lessons we have learned during the trainings inspired me,” Aliah said. “Despite the challenges, we can survive.”