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Restoring hope: a treatment centre for malnourished children

Day 4: Sunday 2 October 2011

Sunday brings an opportunity to wake up without the sudden jolt from an alarm clock, but instead to the sound of a bunch of chirpy birds right outside my window.

The feels a little cooler today. I spot a cluster of clouds and open my mouth to say “Please Lord, let it be”, but the clouds have quickly pushed each other out of the way before my plea gets to the heavens.

Drought victims

Today may well be the hardest day of my visit. I’m scheduled to spend the afternoon at the Save the Children stabilisation centre, meeting children who are malnourished – casualties of the  drought – and who are I hope on the road to recovery.

We make our way to the Habaswein stabilisation centre at 1400hrs. I’m told that there are 11 children here, who have been referred from the outreach centres. A stabilisation centre is a health facility for severely malnourished children with medical complications.

As well as providing children with the nourishment they need, it’s also a treatment centre for a host of illnesses that the children fall victim to because their immune system is weakened. Respiratory infections are the most common. Children who come here are monitored for a given period time and their mother is given with basic information on how to take care of their convalescing child to avert a recurrence.

Save the Children nurse Daniel Wanyoike helps feed malnourished children at the stabilisation centre.

Despair

Sometimes there are too many patients for the unit and they overflow into the adjacent paediatric ward. Today, it’s home to two 9-month-old babies with severe malnutrition and pneumonia who have been here since Friday, having been referred from neighboring Wajir.

It’s here that I get a first hand encounter with the face of a mother willing to pay anything to restore her child’s health, and I sense her desperation and despair every time she look sat her tearful child. It ties my stomach in a knot for the first time in my 11 months of motherhood.

Set up in the middle of the Habaswein District Hospital, any visitor may look at the grass thatched house and assume it’s  just another storage facility put up to manage the temperatures. But the minute you get in and see all these hopeful faces of recovering children and mothers with anticipating great health.

Restoring hope

It gets to feeding time and I offer to stay and talk to the mothers. From talking to them I can’t help but pick up the urgent need for medical centres that will provide prompt diagnosis and treatment. It will encouragage mothers to get help sooner, and deter them from waiting until their child’s condition gets severe before rushing them to hospital.

The good news is how much the care-givers at the centre manage to do with the little they’ve got. Just imagine how much more they could do if all needs were met.

I now call this place Hope Centre. I wish that it  was surrounded by lots of trees since it has become a place where many dreams and ambitions of a proper childhood are restored.

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Read Day 1: Voyage to save a child

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