Malnourished No More: Therapeutic Food Brings a Toddler Back to Life

UN0154794 copy-1.jpgWhen UNICEF Kid Power Team Members get active to save lives they help malnourished children like Bhagwati. 

Six months before this photo, 2-year-old Bhagwati was so malnourished she was loosing her grip on life. Born in a remote village in Pakistan, a developing country with the second highest infant and child mortality rate in South Asia, the toddler nearly became another statistic due to a number of complex factors.

The youngest of four children born into a family of farmers, Bhagwati became sick, in part, because her mother, Guli, never breast-fed her and her family couldn’t afford to give her milk. Not realizing that exclusive breast-feeding could have given Bhagwati all the nutrients she needed to grow heathy and strong, Guli tried desperately to find food her baby would eat.

“She cried, so we tried feeding her butter and honey,” recalls her mother Guli. "She fell ill.”

Luckily, UNICEF staff visited the family's home and, upon seeing the toddler’s condition, got her to the hospital just in time. There she was diagnosed with Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM), pneumonia and fever and admitted to the hospital. Just as crucial was that the local hospital was equipped with Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF), which she was treated with over the course of the next 12 days

Often called a "miracle food," RUTF is a high-energy peanut paste containing every thing kids suffering from severe acute malnutrition need to get back on track. It needs no refrigeration and stays fresh for up to two years. Plus parents don’t have to add fresh water, which can be limited in remote areas where kids are suffering most.

RUTF was the magic cure for Bhagwati, and once she was well enough to leave, she was referred to a local Nutrition Stabilization Center for continued treatment and monitoring. To keep her on track, the hospital sent her home with a hefty supply of RUTF packets, so she could continue to grow heatlhy and strong.

Nearly as important, Bhagwati's hospital stay and subsequent check-ups, gave her mother the chance to learn all about how to ensure nothing would jeopardize Bhagwati's ongoing recovery — and keep all of her children safe. 

“UNICEF staff educated all villagers about how to maintain good hygiene,” says Guli, grateful for the counseling. The advice on how to stay healthy took the mystery out of how and why people get sick and what parents need to do to prevent infections that can spread throughout the family when water isn't clean and a family doesn't have access to soap and cleaning products that keep infections from spreading.  

With Guli better informed, the health of the whole family improved as Bhagwati got stronger and stronger. 

“I couldn’t be happier to see my child heading towards a healthier life," says Guli. "I’m very thankful to UNICEF for their massive support in making her healthy She’s so much active and playful now and I’m very happy to witness the change in her.” 

Get the free UNICEF Kid Power App for iPhone or Android or get the UNICEF Kid Power Band today so you can make your activity count toward lifesaving RUTF packets and help Bhagwati and other severely malnourished children around the world get their chance to survive and thrive.

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