Fati's Story - From Hunger to Hope

03/20/09

As Children of the Nations has ministered in Sierra Leone for over ten years, the faces and names of children suffering from malnutrition have made it very real and personal. COTN strives to provide hope and healing through our Malnourishment Clinic and efforts to educate parents about proper nutrition.

Recently, a three-year-old girl named Fati was brought to our Malnourishment Clinic in Banta Mokelleh. She was diagnosed with kwashiorkor, a form of malnutrition caused by inadequate protein intake. Fati originally came from the village of Ngiehun, but most recently resided in Dodo, where her mother learned about the COTN clinic. In many rural villages, including Fati’s, cultural myths about breastfeeding and nutrition and a lack of exposure to Western medicine are contributing causes to malnutrition.

“When they [parents] see that their child is deteriorating, they assume it is witchcraft, so they go to the sorcerer to determine who is at fault,” said Reverend Angie Myles, COTN–Sierra Leone Country Director.

Fati’s condition was most likely caused by a diet lacking in protein, and consequently her immune system started to deteriorate. Reverend Angie Myles, who is also a registered nurse, said, “When a child has kwashiorkor, what happens is the skin starts breaking down, and this is the body’s first defense to infection. In the villages they use all kinds of local treatments that expose them to infection.”

Our nurses in the Malnutrition Clinic did the best they could to treat Fati for over a month, feeding her food such as Beni Mix, a mixture of local ingredients rich in protein and carbohydrates. Unfortunately, Fati struggled to keep food down, and her health continued to fail. Though the nurses had great hope for her healing and restoration, she ultimately died. Family and friends came to help Fati’s mother collect her things and head back to her village—a long, sorrowful walk after such a difficult fight for her daughter’s life.

But there is hope...

Even though Fati’s story is tragic, the Lord is working through COTN to restore health and life to many children. In addition to operating our Malnourishment Clinic in Sierra Leone, COTN has health animators—trained nationals who travel to the nearby villages to educate people and help dispel cultural myths that contribute to health problems. Health animators focus on topics including breastfeeding, safe water sources, parenting skills, and the development of seed banks for a source of protein during the dry season. In both Sierra Leone and Malawi, COTN owns acres of farmland that help to feed the children in our programs.

In the United States, the COTN Feeding Program provides many opportunities for people to get involved in helping hungry children. Food packaging events are held throughout the year and around the country—allowing churches, civic groups, schools, and communities to raise funds and package meals of lentils, spice, fortified chicken powder, and rice, that are shipped to our countries.

The testimony of God’s work in individual children’s lives encourages the COTN staff to press forward in the cause of ministering to children with malnutrition. In 2007, a young girl named Olive came to live in our children’s home in Sierra Leone after being treated for malnutrition and other life-threatening medical conditions. Because of COTN, Olive is now growing in a loving environment where she is provided with nourishing food every day.

Last year, a young boy named Julius was brought to our Malnourishment Clinic in the swollen, listless and blistered condition of protein deficiency. His small stature led many to believe he was several years younger than he actually is. After two weeks of care and a high protein diet, little Julius started to come back to life. Now, he resides in our children’s home, where he is not only alive, but thriving! Julius has received the nickname “Pastor” because he loves to run around preaching to his brothers and sisters.

The story of each child motivates COTN to continue the ministry of caring for children—with the goal of bringing them from hunger to hope in a brighter future.