It was one hot sunny day in March 2009 when my phone rang. It was the community health volunteer calling to tell me that another child was about to be killed. An eerie silence hung over the phone sending chills down my spine. I sat back. A sense of complete helplessness descended upon me. I managed to pull myself together though. I had little time left on my hands to ask further questions. I sat on my motor-bike and rode through the bush to the community where the volunteer lived. I asked if he could send me to the parents of the child about to be killed. I picked him on my bike and fortunately we arrived on time when the spiritualist who was called to exterminate the girl’s life had barely arrived with two other men. I had often heard how such children were killed in such bizarre circumstances but never did I for once imagine that I would one day be called in to help save a situation of such kind.
The girl’s father looked bewildered and looked about his shoulder in an apparent seemingly calm composure as I introduced myself. He looked at me straight in the eye and managed to force a smile. He had heard about me and the King’s Village Nutrition Centre but at the moment his hopes seemed too distant to relish any thoughts or possibilities of any chances to point to the fact that his daughters condition could be treated with food and not to be seen as a curse from the gods. He was completely convinced that his daughter was a bad omen to the community considering that severe malnutrition was a curse to the community. In the dagomba dilect, malnutrition is termed “kpante”. To understand his predicament, I asked him to explain why he feels the daughter’s case was that of hopelessness. He explained that he had on several occasions sent the girl to the local clinic in the area which didn’t change her condition. He resorted to traditional herbs and still there was no change. He went on to explain that he had to seek the help of a witch doctor who consequently told him his child had been cursed by the gods and that she posed a bad omen to the community and needed to be done away with.
My job as a Nutrition Officer is certainly not a lofty one especially working in a setting where all odds seem to work against you; where clean and portable drinking water is perceived as luxury; where children are not allowed to eat eggs and meat for the wrong reason that they would eventually grow up to become thieves. To have a truly flourishing career in such environment, you need to have a high sense of professional decorum and maturity that will foster a deep trust to allow sometimes very difficult partnerships to flourish. In lieu of this, I have often combined a strong cultural understanding as well as tough negotiation skills that has allowed me to forge alliances and reach consensus with communities whose leadership has long been suspicious of modern approaches and solutions to community nutrition.
Going back, I persuaded the girl’s father to renege on his decision of giving out his daughter to the spiritualist and rather allow me send the girl to the nutrition centre for subsequent care and nutritional rehabilitation. I promised the man that all cost would be borne by me including medical bills. This is how God intervened in the life of this girl rescued from the shackles of human terror.
Fuseina spent six weeks at the nutrition centre where she was completely rehabilitated by a team of dedicated staff with a heart to serve. She was subsequently discharged back to the community. The story of Fuseina is just a tip of the iceberg of the many children who have not been privileged enough to be saved by just a phone call.
Today, Fuseina is celebrating her 10th birthday and she’s in primary five. When I visited her and the family recently, her father could not help but cry. It was an emotional scene as he recalled the past eight years down the line. As it is today, the Nutrition Centre continues to save the lives of many children since its inception in 2008. Available data shows that close to 3,000 lives have been saved and still counting.
Today, Fuseina is celebrating her 10th birthday and she’s in primary five. When I visited her and the family recently, her father could not help but cry. It was an emotional scene as he recalled the past eight years down the line.
As it is today, the Nutrition Centre continues to save the lives of many children since its inception in 2008. Available data shows that close to 3,000 lives have been saved and still counting. With a dedicated team to serve, the growing popularity of the centre has reached enormous heights both home and abroad.
There can be no better example for a mother than to see her child gain weight and vitality from the foods that she herself has cooked and fed. When women have a better understanding of good food and better feeding practice, this will benefit the wider family especially children. In view of this, mothers of the malnourished children receive training on good nutrition practices here at the King’s Nutrition Centre to help them cater for their children when they are discharged. This has partly helped the centre with rates of relapse cases being low. It is the vision of the centre that one day no child will lose his/her life through malnutrition. This vision is possible…it all starts with you!
Story by: Norma Abudu-Birresborn
Senior Nutrition Officer, King's Medical Centre
B.Sc Community Nutrition
M.Sc Community Health and Development
Mr. Norma Abudu-Birresborn combines a high sense of professionals and great skills with a deep sense of love and care for vulnerable children especially in deprived communities. The Nutrition Centre at the King's Village has helped to save the lives of thousands of malnourished children and he need your support to save even many more children and to expand its operation to cover more areas within the districts. Your donation will also help to train the mothers of the children in Nutritional Care of babies and children and how to advice mothers and community members against giving up their babies to be killed when they become malnourished. 100% of your donation goes to the cause your are donating to. Please state when signing off that your donation is for the Nutrition Centre. Click to donate here:
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Ben and Marion