Hungry children, a concern of all countries around the world. This is a serious problem and can have a tremendous impact on society as a whole, but certainly on the individual lives that are affected by this unmet need for food and adequate nutrition. Current statistics indicate that nearly half of all deaths in children 5 years and under, around the world, is attributed to malnutrition. This is a widespread concern in parts of Asia and Africa. Malnutrition also contributes to a greater risk of infection in children, which can lead to death or a significant delay in recovery. Stunting is one other negative and unfortunate outcome of malnutrition. Poor nutrition within the first 1000 days of a child’s life is associated with stunted growth, which is associated with diminished cognitive capacity and is irreversible.
The impact and significance of malnutrition is compelling. As I visit the Philippines once again, I observe children in multitudes who are in need of adequate nutrition. I have also discovered that simply acting on the impulse to help those in need can have a far reaching impact. My students and I have had the opportunity to meet a Filipino nurse, who has the heart and conviction to help those who have the greatest of needs. As a community health nurse she spends her days working in the hottest of conditions, in an environment that is desperate at best. Every afternoon, from 3:00 to 4:00, she feeds children who are underweight, providing them with at least one nutritious meal in their day. The efforts go far deeper than meeting the immediate need but considers the long term need for understanding nutrition and attainable ways for families to be self-reliant. This nurse, and many other nurses, spends time with mothers teaching them about nutrition and preparing simple yet healthy meals. She provides a list of ingredients and the monetary means to purchase an affordable meal to prepare. Each day a mother prepares the afternoon meal for all of the children to eat together. The children come one-by-one and sometimes a group of 2 or 3 brothers and sisters. They bring their own bowl and spoon, kick off their slippers (flip flops) when they enter the room, and head to the table to eat. There is laughter; big brothers help little sisters to eat, and one-by-one they finish their meal and head back out the door to their home. The nurse monitors their weight gain and they stay enrolled in this program until they reach and maintain their healthy weight. This seems like a simple program, but it does require dedication, persistence, and maybe some sacrifice, as the time and conditions are demanding. However, the effects and impact of this program can be far reaching for these sweet children who will benefit from not only the nutrition but the commitment of this nurse who cares for them and desires for them to have a better life.