Robert's Road to Recovery

Claudia is looking forward to celebrating her grandson Robert’s birthday. Just three months ago, she wasn’t sure if he would even make it this far: he nearly lost his life to severe acute malnutrition. 

She couldn’t bear to lose another child.

Claudia’s daughter died tragically one week after Robert was born due to childbirth complications. Claudia lovingly took her grandson in as her own child, but it wasn’t long before his health took a turn for the worse.

Living off of cow’s milk, baby Robert developed diarrhea and quickly lost his appetite. His family thought he was reacting to the milk, hoping it would get better with time. When Elizabeth, one of Action Against Hunger’s Community Health Volunteers, came to their home, she could see Robert’s health failing and urged the family to seek medical care for him. Instead, they decided to see if he could improve at home using traditional healing methods.

Robert’s road to recovery: Before he was admitted to the hospital, he had a mid-upper arm circumference of 9.5cm, about the size of a soda bottle cap.

Photo: Action Against Hunger, Tanzania

By the time Robert was eight months old, he was so weak he couldn’t even crawl. His body was swollen and his skin was peeling. He barely weighed 11 pounds—far less than the average boy his age. His family began to panic at his decline.

With more encouragement from Elizabeth, Claudia brought Robert to the closest health facility, where he was diagnosed with severe acute malnutrition. He was referred to the Mpwapwa District Hospital and admitted for lifesaving treatment. His status was dire.

Over a month went by in the hospital. Robert’s health improved and he soon gained weight.  When he was finally discharged, Claudia was instructed on how to give him Plumpy’Nut, a therapeutic food that would help him fully recover at home.

Elizabeth, right, is one of two Community Health Volunteers who support the Lukole village, visiting about 500 households. The volunteers are the extended hands of Action Against Hunger, who are able to support the hard to reach children and families and address the causes of malnutrition at the household level.

Photo: Morgan Shoaff
for Action Against Hunger,
Tanzania

Robert is now doing well and in good health. He is happy, playful, and learning to walk—things he could not do before. Elizabeth checks on Robert at his home often, talking with his grandmother on nutrition, hygiene, and sanitation. She emphasizes the importance of cleaning his bottles, washing hands both before feedings and after changing diapers, and boiling water to ensure that it is safe to drink.

Robert’s grandmother now sees a future that was hard to imagine even three months ago. “My dream for Robert is that he will grow up to become a doctor and support others the way he was helped,” she says.

Photo: Morgan Shoaff
for Action Against Hunger,
Tanzania

Action Against Hunger is the world’s hunger specialist and leader in a global movement that aims to end life-threatening hunger for good within our lifetimes. For 40 years, the humanitarian and development organization has been on the front lines, treating and preventing hunger across nearly 50 countries. It served more than 21 million people in 2018 alone.