Struggle for life: The Story of Juma

In late February 2011, 10-month-old Juma was admitted to the pediatric ward of Rumonge hospital. He was not only severely emaciated, but he also had digestive problems that left him unable to excrete waste. His mother was afraid to give him anything to eat because his belly was so swollen.

One week into his treatment in pediatrics, International Medical Corps opened a new stabilization center (SC) with financial support from the European Commission Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO). Juma was immediately transferred there, making him the very first case admitted to the center.

The same day, his neighbors came to the hospital looking to bury Juma because they had heard that he had died and his mother needed help carrying his body to the village. After finding Juma alive, but very weak, they advised his mother to go home, saying that the child would not make it and there was no need wasting time and money.

Despite her neighbor’s dismal words, Juma’s brave mother chose to listen to physicians and stay put. The nurses and doctors joined forces to save Juma’s life, but it would not be an easy task. In addition to being severely weak and malnourished, Juma also had cerebral malaria.

Six days after his admission to the SC, the child began to slowly recover. Day after day, his condition improved and by the end of his fourteenth day in the SC, he had gained weight, his medical complications were resolved, and his appetite was restored. He was then transferred to the Outpatient Therapeutic Program (OTP) for follow-up at Birimba Health Center.

Juma stayed for two months in the OTP. During his treatment, his mother continued receiving health and nutrition education on Infant and Young Child Feeding practices and hygiene and sanitation. The team, in collaboration with a Community Health Worker, conducted a follow-up visit at Juma’s home to see his progress.

His parents gratefully acknowledged the intervention of the health promoters, who  had convinced them to transfer Juma from the health center to the Rumonge District Health Hospital. They added that International Medical Corps and health staff provided support throughout Juma’s recovery – from intensive care in the SC to health and nutrition education in the OTP.

Juma’s story was an additional source of motivation for the SC staff and a lesson for the community that proved to everyone that acute malnutrition can be managed and treated with diligent treatment, resulting in healthy, happy children.

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