Malnutrition is responsible for 45% of child deaths under the ager of five. Last Spring I had the gift of venturing into rural homes + hospitals throughout Uganda with Serving His to witness how malnutrition is being fought firsthand. I finally had the chance to put together all these beautiful interviews with families at the center + photographs documenting daily life here.
Have you ever wondered what a hospital looks like in the middle of rural African villages? Or how the constant issue of hunger in these villages is being combated routinely? Serving His is enabling hospitals + families throughout the bush to overcome malnutrition by restoring, empowering, and sustaining. This is a day in the life of a staffer.
The team starts off like anyone would: wake up, coffee, Jesus!
Staffers either get picked up by the carpool from their homes for a two-hour commute to the more rural parts of town, or there’s an on-site home they can stay at to avoid the long drive.
Pastor Hilary is the driver for the carpool every day.
Along the way he stops at the Jinja Central Market to pick up any food items the center is in need of.
peanut butter, anyone?
We also eat some fried cassava as a snack on the road 🙂 The team prays for the journey to the center on a long bumpy road through the bush.
Once the team arrives, breakfast is ready thanks to the sweet chef, Mary.
While everyone enjoys hot coffee, g-nuts, cassava, and samosas, one of the team members leads a Bible study + prayer. Parents staying at the center with their kids are welcome to join.
Then the Serving His teams heads into the field + gets working tirelessly until the very end of the day. They begin with medical treatment to restore children back to health:
“Inpatient Therapeutic Care for the treatment of Severe Acute Malnutrition is a method established by the World Health Organization being implemented worldwide. The Serving His Children medical team serves alongside government hospital staff to provide quality health care for children while parents and caregivers are mentored in nutrition, general health care, family planning and progressive agriculture techniques. Pastoral support is available to caregivers during their stay.”
Then, by educating and empowering the rural communities, malnutrition’s cycle is broken:
“We believe that prevention is always better than a cure. Educational classes ranging from balanced diets to family planning are taught each day. Children in early stages of malnutrition are admitted into an outpatient program at the health center where they are assessed by medical staff and supplemental foods are distributed to be administered in the home. Parents attend classes that can inspire life-altering changes in their homes and local pastors offer spiritual support and Bible teaching.”
Implementation of these methods in the village leads to sustainable change:
“Our goal is to help communities identify their greatest needs and equip them to become their own change agents–a sustainable means of ending malnutrition is formed.”
So how does a child end up staying at the malnutrition center?
Serving His holds weekly clinics for families in communities surrounding the center to have doctors perform physical inspections on their children.
When a child is found to have Severe Acute Malnutrition, they transport both the child + their mother to the center for Inpatient Therapeutic Care.
ITC can last anywhere from 2 days to 2 weeks, depending on the resources of the center. If they have enough formula, they can send the mother home with her child to continue healthy feeding after a few days. After discharge, the team comes to the child’s home periodically to check in on his or her health.
Here are a few of the families’ stories throughout their time with Serving His.
Abdurashi (43) + Rabman (1.5)
Bumwena is a 30 kilometer boda ride away, but it was the closest form of help for Abdurashi and his son, Rabman. It’s not common to see fathers in the center with their children, but Abdurashi displayed absolute adoration for his child, capturing adoring eyes all around. They came from a Muslim lifestyle where Abdurashi has two wives and 19 children. As a farmer for a living, he loves digging his favorite crops, maize and rice. However, their condition isn’t so good as Abdurashi attempts to provide for so many mouths with the little income he makes selling crops. Because of this, Rabman needed medical attention for malnutrition. “My greatest struggle is that I can’t afford to take care of all my children, and sometimes they desire things I cannot give them,” he laments. When Abdurashi realized his son needed medical help and brought him to a nearby center, they could not treat the malnutrition, and sent him to Kigandalo. As he left his village, people thought he was taking a dead baby to bury.
Six days ago, they arrived. Abdurashi says that “I’m proud of this hospital because I came with a son who couldn’t sit, open his eyes, or eat, and they showed him much care. I never expected by this time, my boy would be still alive. My village will be surprised to see Rabman healthy when I return–he will serve as an example”. His hope going back home is that he can educate other people in his village about nutrition and encourage them to bring their children to Kigandalo, because they weren’t previously aware of the services available to them.
Agnes (36) + Kato (1)
The Village Health Trainers scattered around Kigandalo’s surrounding areas play a vital part in spotting malnourished children who would otherwise go unnoticed, due to a lack of nutritional education. In this case, they saved 1 year old Kato’s life. His mother, Agnes, was just taking him to the health center in her village of Bugiri for an immunization. Once a VHT saw Kato, they advised Agnes to bring the baby to the Health Center because he looked malnourished.
It’s not just a lack of education that kept Kato sick; Agnes also struggled to find money for her family’s food and medicine because her husband doesn’t provide properly for them. “My baby’s situation was worsening because I couldn’t provide treatment, but ever since we came here, every need the baby’s had has been met, free of charge,” Agnes explained. “I’m thankful to see my baby recovering.” She hopes to start a small business when they return home so she can help her family get off their feet and provide for more needs.
Ayesha (37) + Wakla (6)
“Poverty is a song to everyone right now,” says Ayesha as she looks longingly at her two children with her. At just 37 years old, Ayesha is a mother of ten. At home, she works as a business woman, buying goods and reselling them, while being busy in the kitchen cooking millet bread, sweet potatoes, fish, and meat. But right now, “my situation is not good”. She is struggling to get food for herself and for the kids. She’s been here at the nutrition center for 3 days, and it’s her second time having children admitted here. When her 6-year-old son Wakla got sick, she knew where to bring him. Since he got here, he’s received all his treatments free of charge. Whatever she needs to do to keep him healthy, she’s willing.
Wakla when he first arrived at the center vs. Wakla after a few days at the center.
Bayat (23) + Jovia (1.5)
Bayat was bringing her daughter to a newly established satellite program in Bukatube for a regular check-up. Back home in Kiyunga, she is a busy mom of four. Sometimes the conditions at home are bad when she’s poor and the children are sick. She has many challenges at home–but she always overcomes them.
The nurse in Bukatube noticed little Jovia’s skin was inelastic when pressed with a finger, causing pits to remain in her arms and legs for several minutes. She came the next day to Kigandalo, seeking help. One day later, she’s already seen improvements in Jovia. She’s learned to treat her children’s sickness right away to prevent them from being admitted to a nutrition center. When Bayat goes home, she says she will “implement the education I’ve received + improve how I’m feeding my children to keep them from being malnourished”.