Penelope Crump, Web Writer
Dolo Ado, Ethiopia
August 24, 2011
When I saw Mardya, my heart sank, then welled up and out to her. Mardya was little bigger than a newborn even though she had already had her first birthday.
The nurse told me she was diagnosed with severe acute malnutrition. Despite her serious condition, Mardya was alert and reached for me with her with tiny, thin fingers.
Mardya’s mother died shortly after she was born, leaving her and her five brothers and sisters. Her father was devastated and has been doing his best to care for his six motherless children. All his cows died in the drought – bankrupting the entire family. The loss of the herd also cost Mardya her only source of food. With no mother to nurse her, no cows to milk and no work for her father, Mardya became malnourished.
Severely malnourished babies like Mardya risk death due to total organ failure and must receive rehydration, nutrients and medications. Mardya was immediately admitted to a emergency nutrition center. She was fed fortified milk at least 8 times a day with loving care by the wonderful health workers and community volunteers I met at the center. She also received specialized medical care and supplements. She quickly gained two pounds and was released.
But just a few weeks later, Mardya caught a simple cold and it progressed to pneumonia. Thankfully, a Save the Children-trained health worker found out before it was too late. She was immediately brought back to the emergency center.
Sadly, Mardya lost all the weight she gained. Pneumonia caused her to rapidly lose muscle and fat, and food at home was still scarce.
In addition to therapeutic feeding, Save the Children nutrition experts recognized that Mardya would need much more support. They identified a community volunteer, a family friend and neighbor, who would help care for Mardya. She will receive more frequent visits and check-ups until she fully recovers.
Part of my heart remains with Mardya and a piece of me wishes I could have stayed to take care of her myself, but I know she is in good hands with my trusted colleagues and new friends in Ethiopia.