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A Widening Smile: Baby Ilias' Story

A 10-month-old Kenyan boy takes a journey back to health
Mother, worker, and child
An ACF worker consults with her little patient and his mom. Photo: ACF-Kenya

Hasna, a mother in Kenya, faced a dilemma. Her young son Ilias was sick, very sick. He was not able to keep any nutrients in his little body, suffering from severe nausea, diarrhea, and fever. After she watched in anguish as he deteriorated for two straight days, Hasna was left with only one option—to travel nearly ten miles on foot with her baby to get him the care he so desperately needed.

A need to act quickly

Ilias was ten months old but weighed just 14 pounds. He had last been checked at a medical facility at six months, but due to the long journey Hasna had not kept up with taking him in for growth monitoring and immunizations.

Upon arriving at a medicine dispensary in Kulamawe, Hasna and her husband Issa learned that the staff there couldn’t care for Ilias—his situation was too severe. Some Action Against Hunger staff members were visiting the dispensary to conduct trainings that day, and assured the family that they would get him good care. He was referred to one of our stabilization centers, where he’d be treated for the dehydration he suffered as a result of all the fluid loss he’d sustained.

Issa was hesitant to have his son admitted to the stabilization center, as he and his wife had to leave their older children, ages 2 and 4, at home with family. He also couldn’t understand what the stabilization center could offer that the dispensary couldn’t. But with a little convincing and assurance from our staff, he agreed to have Ilias admitted.

Our staff transported Ilias some 23 miles to a district hospital in Garbatulla for stabilization. He couldn’t keep any food down during the journey, but upon arrival he was rehydrated with a medication called Resomal. Under close watch by our nurse and nutrition staff, Ilias was put on an every-three-hours regimen of F-75, a therapeutic milk formula. Routine medication was also dispensed to help Ilias fight off infections and to reduce his fever.

“I really appreciate all the work done by the Action Against Hunger staff. If it wasn’t for them, I don’t know what would have happened to Ilias.”

Issa, Father of Ilias, Kenya

Turning a corner

By morning, Ilias was no longer vomiting and his diarrhea had subsided. He was also able to start breastfeeding again. Father Issa, who had been hesitant to come to the hospital in the first place, told his wife she had been right and was delighted that their child was getting better. He was overheard chatting with other patients, telling them that his child’s health was better than on the first day.

By the evening of his second day in treatment, Ilias switched over to a more calorie-dense therapeutic milk formula called F-100. Hasna fed it to her son every three hours, and supplemented with breast milk. Ilias steadily gained weight and after passing an appetite test on the fourth day, was discharged.

Ilias was sent home with a two-week ration of Plumpy’nut, a ready-to-use therapeutic food that requires no preparation and that Hasna and Issa could feed him at home. After the two week period, Ilias had a check-up at the Kulamawe dispensary and was found to be in very good health.

His parents remain forever grateful to our staff, who recognized his condition that first day at the dispensary and took proactive measures to get him treatment. “I really appreciate all the work done by the Action Against Hunger staff,” Issa said. “If it wasn’t for them, I don’t know what would have happened to Ilias.” Upon return home, the entire family was all smiles—and nobody’s was wider than Ilias.

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About Joseph Macharia Kihara

Joseph Macharia Kihara

Joseph, who is based in Nairobi, manages our nutrition initiatives throughout Kenya.

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