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Brotherly love

10 May 2021, Impact of Our Work

The voice of hunger is heartbreaking… But who is listening?

Twelve-year-old Leolida and 18-month-old Lawrence live with their mum Jennifer in a remote area of northwestern Kenya. Here in Turkana County, there is little food, little infrastructure and little water.

Jennifer works night and day to try and make enough money to feed her sons, but she simply can’t earn enough.

“My mummy collects firewood alongside the river,” Leolida says, “she sells it to the neighbouring homesteads and uses that money to buy food for us. Sometimes she gets food… but other times she doesn’t get it.”

He continues, “There are days when she is so tired from carrying the firewood... When that happens, we either have no food or we have less. It’s never enough, but I drink water and it makes me feel full.”

Drought, a strained health system and growing food insecurity have made children dangerously, life-threateningly hungry here. But the small family are close – there’s nothing Leolida wouldn’t do for his little brother.

Playing games to forget hunger

There’s no hiding the love and adoration between the brothers. Leolida rushes home from school to see Lawrence, scooping him up in his arms as soon as he sees him.

“I hold him up, sometimes I carry him up and when I see he is happy, I put him down, then I clap my hands and he does the same. Those are really good games.” The feeling is mutual. Lawrence perks up when Leolida is around, smiling and laughing.

Leolida believes that playing helps to distract Lawrence from his hunger. “He is not hungry when you play with him, he is just happy,” he says.

Stopping the pain of hunger

But Leolida is afraid for his little brother. He knows Lawrence is getting sicker. He is severely malnourished, has diarrhoea, a fever and is half the weight of a healthy baby his age.

“I felt so bad and I asked God to have mercy … and heal him.” 

Lawrence needs life-saving treatment. The remote location of their village means they would have to make a long journey on foot to reach the nearest health facility.

But the pain of hunger can be stopped.

Thanks to generous supporters, community health volunteers like Mark have been trained by Save the Children to bring health care to remote villages. Mark can identify and treat malnourished children like Lawrence.

Mark measures Lawrence’s Middle Upper Arm Circumference (MUAC) with a simple tool called the MUAC band. The band comes out red, and he knows Lawrence is severely malnourished.

Malnutrition is a major problem in this area. Whenever I meet a child who is severely malnourished, it hurts so bad and my strength wanes. I feel like a failure – it means this child could die and there is nothing I can do to prevent it. After all that I’ve done, it breaks my heart to see my neighbour’s child dying.

Mark, community health volunteer

Mark immediately gives Lawrence a 10-day antibiotic course to treat his infection. He also feeds him with nutrient-enriched peanut paste that can help him quickly put on weight. With this urgent medical treatment Lawrence will survive and recover.

Community health volunteers like Mark bring vital health services to remote villages. As well as identifying and treating malnutrition, they also support mothers through breastfeeding and can provide nutritional advice.

A voice of hope for the future 

Now Leolida has more hope for the future. He is determined to be a real help to his community. 

I want to become a doctor so that I can help other young children like my younger brother Lawrence.

Leolida, 12

One day soon, even little Lawrence will be able to flourish at school and have hopes and dreams like his older brother. 

*Names have been changed to protect identities.

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