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Nutritional Rehabilitation Homes for Malnourished Children
NYF’s Nutritional Rehabilitation Homes restore severely malnourished children to good health while educating their mothers about nutrition and child care. When mother and child return to their village, the mother shares her new knowledge with her family and neighbors.
We have all seen the horrific images of severely malnourished children with huge bellies, glassy eyes, and sticks for arms and legs. The problem can seem overwhelming. How can we truly help such children? The Nepal Youth Foundation and its founder, Olga Murray, have found a simple, effective way that transforms these heartrending children into bouncy, active little people within the space of a month or two. And our approach keeps the problem from recurring. Nepal is not the Sudan, yet half the children under five are malnourished and poor nourishment is one of the leading causes of death for young children. The main cause of the problem is ignorance, rather than poverty.
In 1998, the Nepal Youth Foundation opened the doors of the first Nutritional Rehabilitation Home (NRH) in Kathmandu to nurse severely malnourished Nepali children back to health. Child and mother live together at the NRH during the course of treatment, usually about five to six weeks. While we rehabilitate the children, we educate their mothers in how to prepare nutritious meals using foods readily available in rural Nepal. The mothers are also instructed in how to pass on their knowledge to other mothers after they return to their villages.
After the mother and child are discharged, field workers follow up in the villages to check on the child’s health and to ensure that the mother is not only practicing what she has learned but is also educating other women in the community about nutrition and other good child care practices.
Talk about instant gratification! Most of the children come to us unable to smile or play or react to anything – lacking any of the spark that defines a child. It is not long before they are more alert and active, and after a few weeks they are running about and playing. Their mothers also leave us with renewed health as well as nutritional education.
In 2002, we moved the NRH from its first home—the cramped fourth floor of a tall building that also housed a clinic—to a house set on a nice piece of land that we have turned into a vegetable garden. We also expanded the staff to keep pace with demand.
In 2012 the center moved again to a large property in the Kathmandu area that has space to be a full-fledged nutritional education center. It hosts NYF’s dietician training programs, is the training site for the staff of new NRHs, and more. The facility is close to Patan Hospital, a large hospital with a tradition of charity work which refers many malnourished children and their mothers to us. Furthermore, we have established 11 more NRHs in outlying areas so that children throughout the country will be rescued, and we have plans to construct four additional NRHs.
A donation of only $260 will restore the health or save the life of a child, empower and train the mother, and prevent the problem from happening again. That’s about the cost of a couple of visits to the doctor in the U.S.
This program is unique in Nepal. It is, quite literally, saving the lives of severely malnourished Nepali children and preventing mental or physical retardation in many others. By involving the mothers in this process, the outcomes have built-in sustainability.
NYF complements the treatment at the centers with nutrition outreach programs to underserved communities. The staff provide some treatment on the spot, educate people about proper nutrition, and arrange for severely malnourished children and their parents to come to the nearest NRH.
The NRH program has succeeded beyond expectations, serving over 5,000 mother-child pairs to date. Each year, more than 1,000 children’s lives are transformed by this project.
How to Save Children from Malnutrition
NRHs restore children to healh and educate parents in nutrition and health care.