Food for the Hungry
by Michelle Scott*April 28, 2008—Child malnutrition is a major health issue in Sierra Leone. There are several reasons for malnutrition: poverty, ignorance about nutritional needs, and illness such as malaria. The nutrition unit at Kissy United Methodist Hospital in Freetown, Sierra Leone, is an integral part of the care families receive at this institution. Malnourished children are often recognized through one of the hospital’s other community health programs and then referred to Kadiatu Sesay, the coordinator of the nutrition program.“Every day I admit two to three children to my unit,” says Sesay. She has about 55 children in her care at any given time. Sesay’s commitment to the children and the Kissy community is clear. The nutritional supplement she provides for malnourished children was developed by her. Tired of being dependent on donations to provide the typical yogurt-based supplement, Sesay used her nutritional knowledge and developed “benny mix,” which uses local ingredients that parents can continue to provide for their children long after they leave the program.
Restored HealthA severely malnourished child will be restored to health in just three months with benny mix. It is a combination of eight locally-available ingredients which provide high-quality protein, fats and essential vitamins for young children. Each week children in the nutrition program come to Kissy Hospital to be weighed and monitored. Their parents then receive a week’s supply of benny mix, ensuring they’ll come back the following week. During the one to three month period it takes to restore a child to health, Sesay teaches parents how to make benny mix and about their child’s specific nutritional needs. Even after they’ve left the program, children often continue to have benny mix in their diets. Their parents learn how to make it and even bring the ingredients to Sesay for help in grinding them together.
Compassionate HelpSesay is a nurse who received instruction from a certified nutritionist. She entered the field of nutrition because of her love for children. “When I see malnourished children, I feel for them,” says Sesay of her compassion for those whom she serves through this important program of Kissy Hospital.
*Scott is the executive secretary for UMCOR communications