Over three thousand Congolese cured of malnutrition thanks to PIN

Published: Jun 8, 2015 Reading time: 4 minutes
Over three thousand Congolese cured of malnutrition thanks to PIN
© Tereza Hronová

Plumpynut and therapeutic milk F100 and F75. These are for many strange-sounding names of drugs, thanks to which Congolese children and their mothers heal from malnutrition. People in Need (PIN) supplies these drugs since January 2014 in twenty health centers and two hospitals located in the long term-torn province of South Kivu. Project is funded by Pooled Fund RDC and by PIN´s Club of Friends

"Over the past sixteen months, we have delivred to local medics nearly a thousand boxes of Plumpynut, which is a high-energy paste containing besides peanuts, sugar, oil and milk powder also plenty of vitamins and minerals, and nearly a hundred cartons of therapeutic milk F100 and F75," explains coordinator of nutrition activities Louis Migani. "Because of our supplies in Luling health zone where we operate, it was cured over 3,300 people. Mostly children under five years of age were receiving Plumpynut, but also malnourished lactating mothers and pregnant women were cured," said Migani.

"With the weight her good mood returned"

One was treated was also 17-months old girl Judith from the village Katchungu. She firstly became ill with fever, for which she stopped eating. She lost weight and then the edemas appeared as a result of inadequate intake of nutrients. "At that time I already knew that my daughter suffers from malnutrition. I went with her to the hospital where she was treated for two weeks by the therapeutic milk and Plumpynut," says her mother Marceline Kikuno.

"Therapeutic milk is given to the children with severe malnutrition who do not want to take milk from mother’s breast. Once the improvement occurs, we continue treatment with Plumpynut. Dosage of both depends on the child's weight," says Dr. John Wuatonda Musolwa from Katchungu hospital, which receives about ten malnourished children with medical complications monthly. Mostly they are under five years old. "Children at this age are most vulnerable to malnutrition. According to the prevalence of malnutrition in this age group one can infer the health of the rest of the population," says Dr. Louis Migani.

Thanks to Plumpynut treat little Judith soon regained lost weight. Average increase in weight was a hundred grams a day. "With the increased weight, she returned to her appetite and good mood," says Marceline Kikuno and adds that she thanks for the health of her baby not only to PIN, but also to local health volunteers. "Thanks to the training I had received from them, I knew what it was malnutrition and how to recognize it.”

It would not work without the involvement of medical volunteers

Kamalebo Mwaga Celestine serves as a medical volunteer for five years, and especially thanks to his involvement young mother Marceline Kikuno knew that her little girl suffered from malnutrition. During one of his regular visits Celestine explained to her what the symptoms of malnutrition are and how malnourished children should be treated.

"I work in Katchungu´s hospital, so I have always been close to health and nutrition," says Celestine, and continues: "I take volunteering for the community as my duty. I try to inform my neighbors about everything necessary to help them improve their children's health. If kids fall in malnutrition, it will negatively affect their physical and mental development."

Kamalebo Mwaga Celestine was firstly trained by PIN´s team in recognizing malnutrition, the need for vaccination, the use of mosquito nets, good hygiene habits, and nutrition suitable for small children. Now he and other health volunteers try to pass on the knowledge to their neighbors. "I have an area with fifty households which I visit regularly. Those with infants and children under five years I visit twice a month," says Celestine.PIN´s Club of Friends

In the health district Luling, PIN cooperates with a total of 322 medical volunteers whose active involvement is a key in detecting malnutrition in often remote Congolese communities. They actively seek undernourished children and in addition to that they provide information about health and nutrition. Often they even have to explain why is necessary to visit doctor in the health centers or hospitals, because locals do not visit them often due to the distance and the considerable financial costs.

Transport of Plumpynut by plane and on the heads

A problem with difficult accessibility and remoteness of locations in Luling, however, does not affect only local population. Also PIN´s logistics must deal with it in order to transport boxes of Plumpynut and therapeutic milk to the health centers and hospitals. "From our base in Bukavu, they are transported firstly by a small plane to the middle of the forest, where they are further distributed on motorcycles or off-road car. Some villages are so remote and inaccessible that the boxes must be transported by locals on their heads," says the chief of logistics Raphael Papon.

People in Need gives health centers drugs against malnutrition as part of a project funded by the Pooled Fund and PIN´s Club of Friends. The project aims to improve the health, hygiene and nutrition of the population of Luling health zone, focusing on children under five years old, their mothers and pregnant women. PIN aims to achieve that by combination of education, treatment of malnutrition, improving eating habits and personal hygiene and access to drinking water.

Author: Jan Blinka