News from Rumbek
Emergency feeding program at the Loreto Healthcare unit
Malnutrition, poor healthcare and poor sanitation plague babies in large parts of the society in South Sudan. This is due to the economic struggle, prolonged food insecurity and poor weather patterns resulting in low farm yields facing this young country.
The health situation in South Sudan is harsh with the ongoing conflict crippling an ailing healthcare system. Few hospitals are functioning at capacity due to severe lack of medicine, facilities and staff.
In the midst of this struggle, women and babies are among the most vulnerable because they have less access to opportunities and life-saving resources. The women and babies of Maker-Kuei are part of this struggle.
Flourishing on the basics
In the Loreto Primary Healthcare Unit (PHCU), we believe that no gift exceeds that of good health. As we eagerly wait to move into our new expanded facility, we are working hard to stretch our arms wider and reach out to the less fortunate in our community. Over the past year, we have been running an emergency feeding program for malnourished infants, some as young as six months old.
Akol is 30 years old and is happy about the care that her sixth child has received from the PHCU. “My baby was in a bad situation before I came to the clinic in May. He was underweight, had fever and diarrhoea. Also at home there was very little food. He has been treated and the situation is good now, not like before.”
Infants receive emergency care for malnourishment on a case-by-case basis, some for a few weeks, some for several months. After intensive treatment, these young ones are provided with follow-up care as needed.
Malnourished mothers and babies
At the moment, fifty-five infants (from six months to four years of age) are enrolled in the program and cared for by our vibrant team of qualified nurses, Sr. Penina Omanya (Head Nurse), Nicole Hess and Mary Adut, and our trainee nurses. The emergency feeding program uses a multi-pronged approach to early childhood care focused on treatment, prevention and education.
Care is provided for the infants and their mothers who are often unable to breastfeed. In Maker Kuei, many breastfeeding women have little breast milk due to undernourishment, stressful conditions at home, and poor health.
In most cases, mothers suffer from anemia and are unable to adequately breastfeed their children. The PHCU provides food, nutritional supplements and nutritional counselling for these mothers to ensure that they are healthy enough to care for their babies.
Laughter and care at the Loreto clinic
From Monday to Friday, throngs of mothers and babies enter the Loreto compound and assemble outside of the PHCU. As the women talk, laugh and sing to their babies and each other, the nursing staff provides compassionate care to them. At 9:00 am, the babies are fed a porridge made from corn soya blend (CSB) flour.
CSB is used by the World Food Program (WFP) to provide protein and micronutrients essential for early childhood development. At 11 am, the infants receive a popular porridge, madida that is made from locally available sorghum flour, supplemented with moringa and groundnut paste for increased protein, vitamins, iron and other micronutrients.
The progress of the infants is monitored daily by the nursing staff to ensure that the young children are reaching developmental milestones.
The PHCU also provides the mothers with a daily meal of rice and beans for lunch and a ration of maize/sorghum flour to prepare meals for themselves and babies over the weekend.
Deborah, an eighteen-year-old mother is glad to participate in the program. “My child has 4 years. He has diarrhoea and stomach pains. I come with him in clinic and get help.
My son of 2 years is at home doing good. He was also here before this one and got treated by nurse. At home he can’t get what he was getting from Loreto clinic.
To come here I saw a woman who brought sick baby here and he is now good. Loreto clinic has taught me to keep my baby clean, give first aid to my baby and use mosquito net that I have gotten from Loreto clinic so that my baby will not get malaria.”
An important aspect of the emergency feeding program is its focus on health education. The nurses at the Loreto PHCU provide weekly health education sessions for the mothers on issues related to disease prevention, early detection and treatment.
Akol has benefitted from the health education provided at the PHCU, “I have … learnt how to treat my baby when he has fever like giving him medicine and keeping him cool.”
Low levels of immunization have prevented most children and adults in South Sudan from withstanding diseases like measles, meningitis and mumps. In June 2018, the Rumbek State Hospital reported cases of measles, and our nurses immediately launched a measles awareness campaign for our community.
As Mary Adut explains, “Most people have no knowledge on many diseases and we have therefore created awareness to our mothers in the program. We had two massive health education sessions over the week to teach about measles. When we note symptoms of measles we send the mother to the [Rumbek] State Hospital for immunization or to Matangai Primary Health Care Centre if the baby is 11 months old and below. There has also have been an ongoing door to door campaign on measles and many babies are getting free immunization from their homes but the situation of underfeeding still remains unsolved.”
The mothers are also taught how to detect symptoms of common diseases like colds, fever, malaria, pneumonia and respiratory tract infections, as well as first aid measures and good hygiene practices.
Agok, who estimated her age to be 25 years, is very grateful for the work done by the Loreto PHCU. “My baby had diarrhoea and rashes and many wounds before a friend informed me about the clinic. When I came my baby was treated and first he refused to swallow medicine but later accepted and now he is good. I also learn how to take good care of him.”