Rodrick’s Road to Recovery in Tanzania

Forms of Malnutrition - Action Against Hunger Canada

Rehema persuaded Rodrick’s father to let her take her grandson. Photo by Elphas Ngugi for Action Against Hunger, Tanzania.

Rehema fought hard for her grandson. In fact, she fought hard for all six of the children under her care. Four years ago, her daughter, Furaha, gave birth to a son, Rodrick. Soon after, she and her husband separated. Furaha was forced to leave her three-month-old child with his father and his family did not allow her to visit.

Increasingly concerned with the health of her grandson, Rehema tried to visit as often as she could. She saw that Rodrick’s health was not good: “There were days I would visit and he would just cry all day. It broke my heart.” Rehema was finally able to persuade the father to let her take her grandson. Rodrick moved to her home, where she also cares for three of her children and two other grandchildren.

Rehema often worries about providing for her large family. The previous year was a difficult one: rains and harvests failed. Rehema and her husband, Jacob, work on neighbouring farms, where they often earn less than 1.60$ for three days of farming. They use the little money they make to buy necessities like flour, oil, and soap.

forms of malnutrition - Action Against Hunger
Rodrick now lives with his grandparents, Rehema and Jacob. Photo by Elphas Ngugi for Action Against Hunger, Tanzania.

A few months after he moved in with his grandparents, Rodrick was almost constantly sick, with a protruding stomach and swollen cheeks. Rehema fed him porridge and hoped he would get better, but the swelling extended to his feet and hands.

At a nearby clinic, health workers measured Rodrick’s arm for malnutrition and the measuring tape indicated he was healthy, but they saw he was weak, feverish, and pale. They knew something was wrong. After trying different remedies, the health staff referred Rodrick to the District Hospital, where we operate a specialized nutrition treatment centre.

The journey to the hospital was not easy. The grandparents departed at 4am and walked the whole way, taking turns carrying Rodrick. Rehema put him on her back and Jacob carried him through rivers and tough terrain.

Nine hours later, Rodrick was admitted to the hospital and diagnosed with serious forms of malnutrition: edema and kwashiorkor – conditions caused by lack of protein that results in swelling and lethargy.

Quickly, our team stabilized the boy and put him on a treatment regimen. Rodrick was an easy patient: he loved the milk formula and got excited when he saw nurses preparing it. After a week, Rodrick felt better – the swelling went down, his appetite returned, and he was active again. He was discharged, and they returned home.

Forms of Malnutrition in Tanzania - Action Against Hunger
Rodrick was referred to the District Hospital, where he was quickly stabilized. Photo by Elphas Ngugi for Action Against Hunger, Tanzania.

“I am happy Rodrick’s health has improved,” Rehema says. “He used to say, ‘I’m tired’, but he is no longer tired. When you would tell him to carry something, he would say ‘I don’t have the strength’. Now he is much better.”

At the hospital, Rehema learned about nutrition and hygiene, including how to cook vegetables, boil drinking water, and feed children with local foods, and she has put these lessons into practice at home. She still worries about how to feed her large family, but she finds comfort in Rodrick’s improving health.


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