Anthony is a Child With Multiple Needs
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Recently I went to the home of Mercy Benson. She is a 32-year-old mother who has 5 children and is currently 7 months pregnant. I was following up on her son Anthony who is 20 months old. Anthony is her youngest and he is often sick with a fever, probably due to malaria, since the family is quite poor and doesn't sleep under treated mosquito nets. A week ago, Mercy brought Anthony to the clinic for his fever and I gave her malaria medicine for Anthony to take for 3 days, twice a day. Anthony also often has diarrheal disease. This is due to poor food handling practices, untreated water sources and poor environmental sanitation.
In addition, 2 months ago, Anthony started showing signs of malnutrition and "first grade edema" or swelling of the feet. I have been monitoring him for malnutrition using a device we call the "MUAC tape" because it measures Mid-Upper Arm Circumference. I applied pressure to Anthony's feet, calves and head to check for edema. When children have edema, they retain water in their legs and arms. The legs and arms swell up and after I apply pressure, I can see an indentation remains.
After talking with Mercy at our last visit, I realized that Anthony could have been suffering from malnutrition because Mercy had stopped breastfeeding him. There is a belief here that if a mother breastfeeds while pregnant, the breastfeeding baby will drink the milk of the baby in the womb along with the father's sperm. I counseled Mercy about the importance of continued breastfeeding for Anthony and assured her it will not hurt her pregnancy.
During my most recent visit to check on Anthony, I noticed great improvements! The family has responded to my advice and improved their hygiene to prevent diarrhea. Anthony no longer has edema due to malnutrition. I was very pleased to see Mercy breastfeeding Anthony during my visit. And she has said that she will deliver her next baby at the district hospital, which is much safer than using a traditional birth attendant.
While the situation for Anthony and his family is getting better, I still see many improvements they can make. Once the baby is born, I will suggest they consider using family planning. I will visit the home often and continue monitoring the family's overall health and well-being. With the success they have experienced so far, I am sure, with my continued support, this family will continue to progress. We will work together to address their needs one need at a time.