December, 2014—We recognize malnutrition in the face of a severely underweight child with exposed ribs and stick-thin limbs. The lack of calories starves their bodies and robs them of life. Thankfully, the generosity of Canadians enables Samaritan’s Purse to provide the necessary medical and nutritional care to nurse many of these precious children back to health in places like South Sudan and Nepal.
But in Si Ma Cai District in the highlands of northern Vietnam, malnutrition sometimes has a different face. The face of Quang A Thao.
The 16-month-old boy was diagnosed with moderate stunting in early 2014. Outwardly, stunted children are short for their age but they may look healthy otherwise. However, the greater damage caused by nutritional deficiencies during pregnancy and early childhood is seen in decreased cognitive capacity and a far greater susceptibility to common illnesses such as diarrhea and infections.
There is a short period during which some of the damage of stunting can be mitigated. By the time a child reaches two years of age however, the impairments become permanent and irreversible.
Quang’s father, Penh, and his mother, Zung, both from the H’mong tribe, appreciate the assistance they’ve received and are thankful for their only child’s good health in the months since they joined the Samaritan’s Purse project.
Samaritan’s Purse is providing the equipment and coaching their local village health worker to monitor malnutrition by measuring children’s height and weight each month. We’re also training him to share simple lessons with parents about childhood nutrition, hand washing, and home cleanliness.
Through Samaritan’s Purse, Quang’s parents also receive a powdered nutritional supplement for their son to drink daily. It includes essential nutrients like protein, iron, calcium, iodine, and vitamins A to E to supplement the simple meals Zung prepares for their family.
More than three quarters of households in the area have a monthly per capita income of less than $10. Practically, this impacts the food families eat—many only have consistent access to rice and limited vegetables. Luxuries like meat, eggs, fresh fruit and even cooking oil are added only when funds allow. Quang’s family enjoys meat approximately twice a week but other families may only be able to afford it once or twice a month.
The impact on pregnant mothers and young children is significant. More than 70 per cent of children in the region have been diagnosed with stunting.
Penh and Zung work hard to help build a brighter future for Quang. Penh tends the family’s corn fields and cares for their water buffalo, pigs, chickens and ducks. From the broad porch of their home, they can look down on the garden plot where they also planted the vegetable seeds they received from Samaritan’s Purse. These will provide additional food.
Above all, Penh appreciates the lessons he’s learned about childhood nutrition and family hygiene. “The training has been the most beneficial for me. I’ve learned how to properly care for my child,” he said. The village health worker has been sharing “not just words, but practical skills to keep our house clean and our son healthy.”
Your donation to Medical Care Projects helps Samaritan’s Purse Canada meet the needs of some of the most vulnerable people around the world providing funds for life-saving medical equipment and surgical assistance, disease prevention initiatives and community health programs and training opportunities. We also offer spiritual support and eternal hope by meeting these critical needs while sharing the love of Christ.