This morning, I watched a severely malnourished woman gently use her finger to feed her very ill child his first taste of the miracle cure that is Plumpy’nut, a micronutrient paste for malnourished children. Every fibre of her own wasted body must have been crying out for that nourishment, but she had no thought for herself, listening intently instead to the nurse, as he explained how she should care for her son; a mother’s love for her child.
It nearly broke this hardened aid worker’s heart to watch. The little fellah clearly liked it, even breaking into a gurgling smile, to everyone’s amusement. I had to walk away so that they wouldn’t see my tears. We talk of ‘outrage’ as a core value. Well, I was mighty angry today. I chatted to Ibrihim about the receding water table in the nearby well to take my mind off it. Once a water engineer, always a water engineer.
Later we stopped by at an outreach centre. They had finished the weighing and measuring for the day and were now working on new admissions of critcally malnourished children. There was a new case to be referred to the stabilization centre as the child was critically ill. It will sound odd and probably quite cold when I say it, but very critically malnourished children are like dolls — almost lifeless, with no tears or crying. They just lie passively in worried arms.
There was an issue: the mother explained that the father would go with the child because she was epileptic and fitted three times a day, so she would not be able to care for her child in the stabilization centre. “And who will be caring for you?” I wondered to myself in anguish.