Today I had the much-awaited pleasure of helping in the clinic with the nutrition program. Earlier this year, the clinic staff realized there were some young children who needed more than medical help - they need food. They started a program with a small group of children to offer this extra care. There are some supporters in the states who contribute to the nutrition program, providing milk, rice and beans, and "plumpy nut" - a miracle food made from peanut butter that literally saves lives.
The children in the program come to the clinic, and wait for their name to be called. When called, they come into the clinic. Each child is weighed, measured for length, and has a measurement for head, arm, and leg circumference taken. Their temperature is also taken. This is all documented for record-keeping. The past visits are compared to the current visit to see if the child is growing and gaining weight. If so, the parent is praised for their good work. If the child lost weight, questions are asked: Have they been sick? Are they eating? Are they sleeping? Have they had diarrhea? With these questions, the staff tries to get an idea of what is going on at home with the baby.
While there have been some incredible successes already in this program, there are also heart-breaks at every nutrition clinic. Some of the children continue gaining weight, growing, and looking healthier. They are starting to smile, and they have a personality blooming. When they start in the program, they are so severely malnourished that they cannot even cry oftentimes. This is hard....if the child does not cry, the parent often believes they are not hungry. Education is such a desperate need for these parents. They do not comprehend the simplicity of what these children need, or how to manage feedings for babies. Some parents are learning so much, and will probably not need the care for future children. They are understanding what a child needs and how to care for them. This is so encouraging!! One little boy in particular was so sweet. He was happy - smiling and giggling. He encouraged us again shortly after our lowest point today. He is a miracle...his mama listened to everything they told her. She gave him the food - not someone else, or eating it herself. She did not sell the food for something else...she gave it all to him. The evidence is there. May she be a testimony to other women around her in the program who might get a glimpse of who their child could be if they would only follow the instructions given.
I said there were heart breaks every time, and today was no exception. Today, there was one little girl in particular who broke our hearts. She is in a children's home with nobody to fight for her. She is no longer even holding on for life. She does not cry; she is losing weight consistently. She was obviously so very hungry - it took all the little strength she had to finish a 7 oz. bottle. At only 9-10 pounds, she is over 1 year old. She is dying...and there is nobody to fight for her. The medical staff can only do so much. They send food home with her, but it does not seem like she is being fed. This week the doctor did not give her food. Her condition was so severe that she cannot even drink milk...her body cannot handle it. She had Pedialyte and it went straight through her like water. She is suffering, but has no strength to make it known. She cannot sit up, stand, even hold her own head up. Her poor tiny body is slowly dying. She has severe diarrhea, a high fever, and there is nothing the staff can do. The doctor explained how terrible the situation is to the worker who brought her...but even this woman only works at the children's home. She cannot be there at all times to care for this sweet baby.
This is a side of "child survival programs" (as Compassion International calls them) that nobody can truly process. The staff makes impossible decisions. Who gets food? Who does not? When do you decide a case is finished...nothing can be done? When do you pray for healing, or for reunion with Christ? Perhaps you find this appalling...but this is what the staff is faced with. They have adults who do not follow the program - some by choice, others by ignorance, and some with their hands tied. Who do you turn your anger towards in this case? God? Satan? The adults? Fate? This little girl probably will not survive the week...but if she were in the states, DHS would be all over this. No, it is not fair...it is not right....it is unjust. But our God is just. How does this balance? By the grace of God, this is not by my understanding. God knows...He cares... He loves this little girl. He will fight for her - however that may look. Whether He works a miracle, or he brings her home, HE WILL FIGHT FOR HER! Thank God we can trust Him in that. Praise God that He sees every need and He hears every prayer and cry....even the silent cry of a child who can no longer make a sound.
This is humbling...and it poured fuel on the flame of my passion for underprivileged young children. I cannot save them all, but by the grace of God, maybe I can save one.
If you want to be more involved in this program, I can connect you with the point of contact at NVM. They need supporters. This is a program I believe in...and I think you do too!! The fastest and most powerful way for you to be involved is to pray - pray for the staff. They need wisdom, peace, and healing. Pray for the care-takers of these children. Pray they see the gift God has given them, and they understand the gravity of nutrition. Pray that they may prioritize it and follow instructions. Pray for their wisdom and understanding. Pray for NVM as they seek how/if to move forward with this program in 2013. Lastly, pray for the children. Pray that the treatment would work. Pray for a care-taker who will fight for them. Pray for their bodies to absorb every nutrient it possibly can. Pray that they would fight and be strong.
Thanking God for His miraculous provision....for being born to incredible loving and wise parents...for food (and I mean that in a whole new way!)....for programs that save the lives of little ones who cannot do it for themselves...