Marwa works with displaced families at Action Against Hunger's Dadaab Base in Garissa County, Kenya.
In Kenya, Information About Breastfeeding Saves Lives
Editor’s Note: This month, Action Against Hunger joined the NGO community in celebrating World Breastfeeding Week by sharing heartwarming stories about some of our work to promote breastfeeding in Kenya. You can read our first two stories here and here. This week, we're sharing the final story in our series about the importance of breastfeeding.
Nuriyo Omar Aden was among the thousands of refugees who migrated to Kenya from Bardere, Somalia, after severe drought hit the horn of Africa in 2011. Upon arrival in Kenya, she settled in a refugee camp in Dadaab, where she and her family still live.
Nuriyo’s husband Hussein used to work in Somalia, but he now suffers from a chronic health condition that leaves him unable to support his family. As their financial situation worsened, Nuriyo and Hussein struggled to provide for their children.
Caring for twins under difficult circumstances
While living in the camp, Nuriyo gave birth to twin girls, Safwa and Maryum. Unlike other mothers in her community who were members of a mother-to-mother support group, Nuriyo lacked knowledge about optimal nutrition and care practices for her babies. Instead, she followed her cultural practices: she delivered the twins at home, did not initiate breastfeeding after birth, and introduced other foods to her babies before they were six months old.
Because they weren’t receiving the right nutrition in their early months, the twins grew weaker every day. As their condition worsened, Nuriyo sought help from her neighbor Fatuma, who encouraged her to visit a health facility so that her babies could receive specialized care.
Supporting Nuriyo and her daughters
At the health center, Safwa and Maryum were diagnosed with severe acute malnutrition with medical complications. The clinic officer immediately referred them to a stabilization center for treatment. While her girls received critical medical care, Nuriyo attended infant feeding counseling sessions with Action Against Hunger’s Maternal Infant and Young Child Nutrition (MIYCN) counselor who works at the hospital.
The counselor informed Nuriyo of the importance of breastfeeding, but at the time, Nuriyo was fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. Fasting made it difficult for her to produce milk. The MIYCN counselor was sensitive to her religious beliefs, explaining that according to Islam, nursing mothers should be exempt from fasting during Ramadan. Nuriyo agreed to stop fasting so she could nurse her babies, and within a few days, Safwa and Maryum were gaining weight.
After treatment and counseling, Nuriyo and her twins were discharged from the stabilization center and returned home. A MIYCN counselor made home visits to support Nuriyo in case she experienced any difficulties nursing. Nuriyo also joined a mother-to-mother support group in her community, where she gained knowledge and support from her peers about the best way to care for her children. The twins are now healthy, and Nuriyo is a happy mother.