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Arakan malnourished kid survives

HEALTH • 06:03 AM Sun Sep 28, 2014
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By: 
ACF International
Mary Joy Magbanua, Emman's neighbor, shows that, indeed, it takes a community to raise a child. (ACF Int'l)

ARAKAN, North Cotabato (Sept. 27) -- Four years ago, he was suffering from severely acute malnutrition (SAM). Today, Emman, as neighbors fondly call him, is a shy 5-year old boy. We thought he was going to die,” says his day care teacher Mary Jane Alegarbes. The boy's neighbors in the remote village of Kinawayan, some 10 kilometers from the town center of Arakan, North Cotabato, had the same thoughts. He was so thin. He was skin and bones,” neighbor Mary Joy Magbanua said. Luwas lost his mother when he was barely a year old. She died and I was left to look after four children,” Rudy, the boy's father, said. Rudy, however, also had to bring food on the table. I need to tend the farm to feed the children,” he said of his small corn farm. Food, however, came too little as the children only had boiled cassava, banana and sweet potato as staple. Busy with farming and with the occasional work as a farmhand, Rudy forgot to look after the children's health, particularly Emman's. Emman's family lived far from the cluster of residents in the village center. So when environment officials ordered a relocation of homes as soil cracks were seen in the old village centro, it was only then that people saw Emman's real condition. I only realized that his condition was really bad when health workers checked on him,” Rudy said. ACF International, placed Emman under its nutrition program. Emman ate Plumpy Nut, a peanut-based paste filled with vitamins and minerals, for six weeks. This is the same Plumpy Nut, with 500-calorie count per sachet, that international relief organizations treat malnourished children in countries hit by famine. After six weeks of Plumpy Nut diet, gone was the old Emman. He was no longer pale. He grew hair,” Magbanua said. All over Arakan town, the ACF has attended to 58 SAM patients from 2011 to 2013, while 11 others were treated this year. In the village of Kabalantian, there were six SAM cases this year. One of those treated is three-year old Baby Anton, who was discovered on May 7 while health workers were conducting Operation Timbang (Weight Screening) in the said village. Baby Anton, at the time of the screening, weighed only 5.8 kilograms and had a Mid-Upper Arm Circumference (MUAC) of 97 millimeters. Her ideal weight is 8 kgs. The normal MUAC is 135 millimeters. At four months, Baby Anton was left to her grandmother's care after her mother left for Manila to work as a househelp. Already lacking in nutrients, Baby Anton's health deteriorated early this year when farms in Arakan dried up due to lack of rain. On the second week of her treatment, Baby Anton's weight went up from 5.8 kgs to 6.4 kgs. Her MUAC was already 106 milliliters. On the third week, she was 7 kgs., and had a MUAC of 110 mm. On the fourth week, she weighed 7. 9 kgs., or .1kgs short of the target 8 kgs. Her MUAC was measured 112 mm. She continued treatment until the desired targets-- 8 kgs and 135 MUAC – were met. When told that Baby Anton would be discharged” from the ACF nutrition project, her grandmother, Editha, was worried of her granddaughter's health. She might go back to being malnourished,” Editha said. ACF nutrition workers said Baby Anton will be enrolled with the local government's feeding program to ensure she remains healthy. Some 23 kilometers away, in the village of Kinawayan, Emman continues to be the healthy boy that he has become. Thanks to the project Support for the Socioeconomic Development of Communities within the Spanish Development Cooperation’s Zones in the Philippines funded by Spanish Agency for International and implemented by ACF International. His father, Rudy, still has to go to his farm and leave his children behind. He, however, is confident they will not go hungry as neighbors make sure his children do not go hungry. I call them when it's lunch time. We share whatever we have,” Magbanua, a mother of six children, said. For Magbanua, Emman should never go back to what he once was. How can I afford to feed our pet dog, and not feed these kids,” she said. Luwas, in Cebuano, means Save. And true to his last name, Mark Real Jay Luwas is saved. Theproject Support for the Socioeconomic Development of Communities within the Spanish Development Cooperation’s Action Zones in the Philippines,” funded by the Spanish Cooperation in the Philippines through the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), implemented in 2010 to 2014, is designed to contribute to poverty reduction in rural and peri-urban communities in North Cotabato and Lanao del Sur by providing capacity building assistance to strengthen the governance processes and working to improve access to safewater sanitation facilities, ensure food security and livelihoods and good nutritionto prevent or treat malnutrition, incorporating crosscutting themes such as gender, disaster risk management, climate change adaptation, environment andcultural sensitivity to prevent or treat malnutrition.At the end of its 4-year course, the project has reached out to 7,000 households for nutrition 2,000 for food security and livelihoods 2,000 for water, sanitation and hygiene project, and 3,000 pupils for school-based activities related to WASH interventions in the municipalities of Arakan and President Roxas in North Cotabato and Kapatagan, Lanao del Sur.Arakan is a second class municipality in North Cotabato with a population of 43,554 people in 28 villages according to 2010 census. ( Rosa May de Guzman Maitem, Communication Manager,ACF International Philippine Mission)

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