Their diet consists of corn porridge and sometimes a little fish or vegetables, if they are lucky. They are used to going to bed with hunger gnawing at their insides.
When Dionisa’s other daughter, Natália, was brutally beaten to death by her husband, her two children João and Káti were sent to live with their grandmother. Suddenly, an already struggling Dionisa had two extra children to feed.
When João arrived he was weak, listless, and quiet. Tereza thought it was because her 18-month-old nephew was yearning for his mother. But then he developed a fever, his tiny body swelling up, first his legs, then his arms and finally his face. Bad diarrhoea came soon after and Dionisa had to run from her work in the fields to get him to the clinic.
There João was diagnosed with kwashiorkor, a severe form of protein-energy malnutrition. The main symptom is too much fluid in the body’s tissues, which causes swelling under the skin, known medically as oedema. Later, lesions in the skin can appear and start to peel.
Many children under five continue to die from this condition.
“It is bad dehydration, there is not enough fluid in the veins. They get sores in their mouths. Some cannot move. Children suffer immensely, can you imagine what it must feel like?” says Dr Mary Okumu, ForAfrika’s technical director who has over 30 years’ experience in child and maternal health.
Fortunately for João, ForAfrika delivers therapeutic milk, food, and MannaPak Fortified Rice to the Catumbela clinic where he was immediately admitted and put onto a medical feeding routine.
A few weeks later, João was discharged, his peeling skin completely healed. His grandmother was given take-home portions of therapeutic food, including MannaPak Fortified Rice.
“Now that we have the help of the rice, when we can't get any other food, we all eat rice, along with João,” says Tereza.
But, while Tereza expresses her gratitude, Dionisa admits she is worried sick about where the next meals will come from. Being away from her fields and the persistent drought means that she has not been able to harvest much produce.
She does not want to return to the clinic in Catumbela again.
Our ForAfrika staff have met many other children just like João, and not all of them make it to the clinic in time. Angola is experiencing its worst drought in 40 years and clinics are seeing an increase in the number of children suffering from hunger and acute malnutrition.
With no harvest expected this year, there will be thousands more and we want to be ready to receive them.
With your support, we can ensure that the nutrition they need will be available to restore their bodies back to health.
Donate today, a child depends on it.