Friday, November 9, 2007
On two Tuesdays in a row, as I worked at Nyahuka Health Center, he kept finding me. A man, holding a baby in an oversized blanket, repeated his story for the second time: His wife was very sick and she was an inpatient on the ward. She had breast problems and could not breastfeed their baby girl, Vumiliya. Could I help them with some food? Because nearly all my training regarding nutrition in developing countries emphasizes the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding and the precariousness of feeding young children infant formula or other replacement feeds, I was not eager to supplement Vumiliya’s diet with formula or milk. The first time he asked for help, I said that I needed the mother to be seen by Dr. Jennifer or Dr. Jonah before we could offer nutritional assistance – I needed someone more experienced to speak into the situation. I did give some milk, but felt very hesitant and uneasy about it, saying the mother should really try to breastfeed. He came the next Tuesday without a note from a doctor. We gave him a bit more help, still very uneasy. Finally, I told Jennifer about the situation, and she graciously went to find the mother and get an accurate read on the child’s story.
Vumiliya’s mother is HIV-positive. She is indeed very sick and should not be breastfeeding her child while supplementing the baby’s diet with other foods as this increases the risk of HIV transmission from herself to Vumiliya. As Jennifer talked with the father, she asked “Do we have a goat ready? This child would be a perfect candidate for a goat.” At the time, there were no goats giving milk, ready to be given to beneficiaries. So we told the father we’d help with milk for one month, giving him time to find a surrogate breastfeeder. A few days later, Lamech told me there was a goat giving milk ready to be given to a beneficiary, because the child for which it was originally intended shifted to Congo (we do not give goats to children living in Congo because providing veterinary care is dangerous for our agriculture extension workers). I was praising the Lord for this goat giving milk to give to baby Vumiliya!
The saga continues, however. On Tuesday, when her father came with me to WHM Matiti Farm to get the goat, we discovered it had diarrhea. Pauline decided to keep the goat on the Farm until it completed its full course of medicine. We are continuing to provide Vumiliya’s father with milk for her to drink. I was struck once again at how difficult it is to get sustainable sources of protein for children here in Bundibugyo: Farmers decide it is more lucrative to plant cocoa shambas than to plant groundnuts. Chickens get coccidiosis and die en masse. And exotic dairy goats get diarrhea. It is messy! But not hopless ~ Please pray that Vumiliya would get to enjoy goats’ milk sometime soon, and that God would preserve her life and provide abundantly for her family.