Nathan Elwood here, one of the new faces on the BundiNutrition team. I’m working with the BBB program, and outpatient nutrition program for children with moderate acute malnutrition. These are kids who are between 70-85% of the weight that they should be, given their height. Children who qualify are enrolled in the program for ten weeks, during which they receive locally produced ready-to-use peanut and soy food weekly. The children are weighed at each distribution, and community volunteers teach a nutrition lesson to the parents in attendance, which we hope will have a longer-term impact than the food that we’re providing. Between the two sites from where we run this program, we currently are able to have 50 children enrolled at a time.
The first 10-week cycle recently came to a close, and I thought it good to look back and reflect on how it’s going at this point. On a week-to-week basis, I’m often frustrated by what seems to be a lack of growth or progress: children gaining some weight one week, losing some the next; children showing good growth, but then getting sick and losing it all; weight gain that seems too slow to be much of an improvement. These frustrations have, at times, caused me to wonder if the program is worth it, if it’s having any real effect on these kids’ lives.
When I went over their weights at the end of ten weeks and calculated their weight-for-lengths, I was stunned. Out of the 17 children who finished the program that week, all but one had risen over the 85% mark, out of the acute malnutrition range. The truly amazing part is this: many of them had risen from less than 85% weight-for-length to over 100%! I had to laugh with joy. Seeing these children at the start of the program, thin, bony, and sickly-looking, I couldn’t have hoped that they would reach a normal healthy weight in just 10 weeks. It was simply beautiful. Seeing these kids putting on weight, the world seemed to be a better, more beautiful place. The world felt more right – this is how children are supposed to be.
So, as the program rolls on, I’m encouraged by the progress that so many of the children from the first round made. It brings new meaning to the work and shows me that, despite numerous frustrations and difficulties, the program can have a transformational effect on children’s and families lives. While there will always be more sick and hungry children than we can care for, I find the world a more beautiful place for having seen these ones go from malnutrition to a healthy weight. I wish you could see the beauty of it for yourselves.