In the shadow of the children hospital, Sierra Leone
The parents of Aminata were not aware of the nutrition clinic at their National Children Hospital Ola During in Freetown, which is only a few minutes walk away. This story is not unusual; many children fell ill with malnutrition to not get the right treatment. The @acf_uk coverage survey made in this area found that just half of all malnourished children are seeking the free nutrition program
The reasons not to inquire for nutrition assistance are unique to every child and family. Maybe the Community Health Workers volunteers, who live in these areas were not sufficiently supported to go out and talk to the young parents to alert them to the issue. Maybe the clinic has insufficient therapeutic food supplements, or the staff are asking for fees and other contribution, which low-income families can hardly afford.
The caregivers have their reasons not to be able to bring their child. Some do not connect hunger and health. Consequently, do not ask the hospitals but go to the traditional healers for help. They can not afford the hidden cost at the clinics. The employer might not let them take time off and not earning even a day is not an option. Siblings cannot easily be left alone. They feel ashamed and judged by others.
Most of all the nurses and doctors must be respectful, so malnourished children return to their communities, and their caregivers spread the word and encourage other mothers and fathers to seek assistance. The hospital must fight corruption, it’s staff must be banned from asking for “fees”, and waiting times must be minimised.
Two weeks later we pass the house of Aminata again. Her mum and a friend are chatting; she is sitting on her lap. The girl has discharged from the inpatient service and is now playing happily. The mother is telling us that she will tell all her neighbours to visit the hospital if she sees “thin thin” children, the Creole for acute malnutrition.
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