A Mother’s Journey to Feed her Son

As World Food Day approaches, celebrating the children who have overcome deadly hunger
Four-year-old Dennis receives nutritional care at a health center in West Pokot, Kenya. Photo: ACF-Kenya, S. Hauenstein-Swan
Four-year-old Dennis receives nutritional care at a health center in West Pokot, Kenya. Photo: ACF-Kenya, S. Hauenstein-Swan

Editor’s Note: This piece is the third in a series leading up to World Food Day on October 16th. We're proud to be highlighting some of our nutrition success stories from West Pokot, Kenya, and wish to extend our gratitude to partners UNICEF and ECHO (The European Community Humanitarian Office) for supporting these programs.

Leah sits under the midday sun cradling her little son Dennis, the youngest of her children. Four-year-old Dennis is suffering from malnutrition, and the mother and son are attending their weekly check-up appointment at an Action Against Hunger supported health center.

Droughts cause difficult times

Recent droughts in West Pokot, Kenya, have had a huge impact on Leah’s family and thousands of others like hers. Poor rains have caused crops to fail, resulting in significantly smaller harvests, which has been devastating for Leah and her family. Faced with a scarcity of milk and animal protein, Dennis has been diagnosed with severe acute malnutrition—the most deadly form of hunger.

Because of the droughts, Leah’s family only has enough food for two meals a day. Their meals are always made up of the same ingredients: wild vegetables and ugali, a traditional cornmeal dish. Leah says:

“My whole family is constantly hungry as we have to survive on just two small meals a day.”

– Leah, Dennis’ mother, West Pokot, Kenya

She continues: “I knew that my children were not getting enough to eat and so I had to make the decision to send one of my sons to live with a relative to ensure that he would be well-fed and educated. It was very sad to have to separate my children but I knew I had to send him away in order for him to stay alive.”

Hope for Dennis

Leah has also had to face challenges to ensure that Dennis receives the treatment he needs to make a full recovery from malnutrition. Leah walks for hours to bring Dennis to the health center in Chesta every Thursday so he can be monitored, weighed and measured by community health workers trained by Action Against Hunger. 

She explains, “It takes us four hours to reach the health center on foot but it is worth it so Dennis can get the help he needs to recover.” 

From the health center, Leah is able to collect enough supplies of ready to-use therapeutic foods to feed Dennis for the following week. Luckily, Dennis was referred to the health center in time for him to receive the treatment he needs to make a full recovery. Action Against Hunger community health workers who have been monitoring Dennis believe that he will be fully healthy again very soon, which is fantastic news for Leah and the rest of the family. Leah says:  

“My only hopes for the future are that Dennis is healthy again and the rest of my family is no longer hungry.”

– Leah, Dennis’ mother, West Pokot, Kenya

Action Against Hunger’s trained community health workers are located all over West Pokot to help diagnose and treat malnourished children just like Dennis. Teams are helping more families than ever before and aim to eventually reach every family in the region, so no child is ever hungry or undernourished again.