Meralda is 4 years old, but you would never know it if you saw her. She weighed only 22 pounds when she was admitted to the hospital, as light as a healthy 1-year old baby. She should be at least 19 pounds at her age, but a lack of protein and vital nutrients has her guant and weak.
Her family got her to St. Boniface Hospital, which has a pediatric ward full of children like Meralda. Doctors started treating her with small feedings every 3 hours, with vitamin-supplemented milk and Plumpy nut, a type of peanut butter enriched with protein powder and essential nutrients.
Malnutrition kills nearly half of the many Haitian children who die before reaching the age of 5 years old, and nearly 300,000 children are living with chronic malnutrition. St. Boniface is changing that, one child at a time, through intensive nutritional therapy, but also through efforts such as the Tifaweye initiative, a program that educates families on nutrition, cooking healthy meals on a very tight budget, and good hygiene. These programs offer preventative care and education to children at risk, as well as information to families like Merelda's once she is discharged. There are hundreds of thousands of malnourished children in Haiti, but our goal is for every child in our catchment area to grow up healthy.
Meralda was kept at the hospital for another three weeks, eating fortified food regularly and growing stronger. Slowly, nurses started seeing signs that she was getting better, especially the best sign a malnourished is on the way to recovery- a smile.