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Saving and changing lives

13 November 2018, Impact of Our Work

Good recipes can save lives

All over the Philippines, where a third of children under five are stunted, we’re training health workers and treating vulnerable children like Janice.

Two-year-old Janice is a ball of energy. She loves playing outside her home in Manila, pretending to cook meals, or racing around with her friends and cousins. It’s hard to imagine her staying still for more than a moment.  

 Yet Janice hasn’t always been this way. As a baby, she was weak and lethargic, with no interest in sitting up, interacting or exploring the world around her. It was her unusual stillness that first rang warning bells with her mother, Jenelyn. 

“She would just lie down most of the time,” remembers Jenelyn. “If she was sitting, she just sat, unlike other kids who can’t stay still. I wondered why she was like that. I tried some multivitamins for kids, but they didn’t seem to have any effect on her.”

Image: Carlo Gabuco/Save the Children

For this devoted mother, it was heartbreaking. She didn’t know her daughter was severely malnourished and was using every ounce of strength just to stay alive. 

If it hadn’t been for the help of Save the Children, Janice wouldn’t have survived much longer. But thankfully, her condition was spotted by one of our trained health workers in the local community and she was given emergency therapeutic food, just in time. 

Over the next few months, Janice received sachets this miraculous peanut paste every day and was carefully monitored for signs of recovery. 

Steadily, she began to put on weight, grow stronger and become less lethargic. Soon, she’d developed a healthy appetite – often wolfing down two sachets for breakfast, then noisily demanding more! “I felt very relieved after that and I was thankful for the improvement,” her mother told us. “She gained an appetite, became more energetic, and started to mingle with other people. I was very happy.” 

Jenelyn also explained how health workers taught her how to cook nutritious meals for her family and make her meagre budget stretch as far as possible. Some of the dishes from the recipe book she was given are still firm family favourites – including tortang malunggay, a sort of omelette fried up with sweet potato, banana and eggplant.

Image: LJ Pasion/Save the Children

But for Janice, the best meal of all is a fish stew called sinigang – she loves to buy the ingredients at the market and hover by her mother’s side as tasty smells fill the kitchen. 

“Sometimes when I’m still cooking, Janice will say ‘Mama, can I have a taste?’,” laughs Jenelyn. “Now she’s rowdy, energetic and eats a lot, unlike before.” 

Aurea, one of our local health workers, is just as delighted by Janice’s improvement. “She is now an energetic child,” she agrees. “She is healthy and no longer cries a lot. You can see the benefits in the long-term – not just the immediate results.” 

With Janice now approaching her third birthday, Aurea and Jenelyn are looking forward to a healthier, happier future for the little girl. And though a big party might be out of the question, a bowl of delicious sinigang stew will almost certainly be on the menu. 

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