Sifa’s struggle in fighting malnutrition

malnutrition in North Kivu

“In two weeks she has put on 2.4 kg! She now weighs 14.4 kg and is already asking for food, which is a very good sign.”

Two weeks ago, Sifa was rushed to the Heal Africa Hospital in Goma, North Kivu province. The 12-year-old girl was suffering from severe acute malnutrition with complications. Today, sitting on her hospital bed, she is eating French fries and a piece of meat with gusto.

Upon arrival at Heal Africa Hospital, Sifa was admitted to the Intensive Nutrition Therapy Unit (UNTI). For five days, she received medication and was fed therapeutic milk to stabilise the normal physiology of her organs. Following this intensive phase, Sifa received ready-to-use therapeutic foods and even began to eat ordinary local food.

Sifa seems to be gradually recovering. The swellings have gone down, the skin lesions are healing and her motor skills are improving. The young girl is regaining her health through appropriate treatment. “Sifa is doing very well,” says Joël Shamavu, Heal Africa Hospital nutritionist. “In two weeks she has put on 2.4 kg! She now weighs 14.4 kg and is already asking for food, which is a very good sign.” However, the nutritionist admits that Sifa is not out of the woods yet. “As soon as she has got her strength back we will start walking rehabilitation.”

How did it all start ?

Françoise, Sifa’s grandmother, admits this is not the first time her granddaughter has been malnourished. When Sifa was 4 months old, her mother became pregnant again. Her breast milk stopped flowing straight away so Sifa was weaned. Sifa became malnourished due to insufficient quality nutrients. She was cared for in a nutrition centre and quickly recovered. However since then, Sifa has been in poor health and often falls ill.

Two years ago, Sifa’s parents were killed by militiamen while they were in the fields. Since then, the girl and her two younger brothers have been entrusted to their grandmother. Françoise, 65, explains how difficult it is for her to support her grandchildren.

Everything changed when Françoise was hospitalised for two months due to severe malaria. Being short of money, Françoise decided to keep Sifa at home, hoping that the traditional treatment would work. However, the young girl’s health became critical. It was then that Françoise decided to take her granddaughter to the nearest health centre.

Sifa is now out of hospital and has learnt to walk again. She is continuing to have physiotherapy sessions.

Fight against malnutrition in North Kivu

Malnutrition is the most significant underlying cause of infant and child mortality in the DRC. In North Kivu, UNICEF provides therapeutic milk, ready-to-use therapeutic nutrients and medication for the routine treatment of severe acute malnutrition. UNICEF also promotes infant and young child feeding and supports capacity building of health workers in health care facilities to ensure adequate management of severe acute malnutrition.

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Cynthia Kanyere

Cynthia Kanyere est chargée de communication à l’UNICEF pour la Zone Est RDC. Sociologue de formation, elle travaille depuis 2005 dans le domaine du journalisme et de la communication. Elle est fascinée par les enfants, quelle que soit leur classe sociale ou leur race. Son credo : « Agis pour chaque enfant de la même façon que tu agis pour ton propre enfant ».

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