A picture of severe malnutrition

written by: Lisandro Torre
posted in: 2011, Colombia

May 28, 2011

Lady is one of the severely malnourished children who are in Tumaco’s nutrition clinic for recovery.

I’ll quickly sum up today. I was picked up at 7:20 and taken to a training that another organization was holding on nutrition. They were teaching nurses how to diagnose severe malnutrition, which is a big problem in Tumaco. I was then introduced to the presenter and we went to their nutrition clinic, where malnourished children are kept for a month to recover. When we got there, we met the doctor, who showed us around while he talked about the situation in Tumaco. While we were talking, we were standing next to a crib with a baby with severe malnutrition named Lady. She had big eyes and was just sitting, staring and scared. The doctor showed us the lesions all over her skin, which is an indicator of severe malnutrition. Finally, I couldn’t help myself and picked her up and held her for about 30 minutes, rocking her until she finally relaxed, putting her head on my chest and closing her eyes.

The big problem in Tumaco is that the hospital doesn’t really know how to diagnose malnutrition and they have malnourished kids that they miss. Or, they just don’t communicate with this nutrition center and/or the parents won’t take them.

Lisandro and Lady become fast friends.

There’s an institutional issue at play here, and since IRD works to improve how organizations work and communicate, hopefully we can come up with something, though the program officer was dubious. We chatted for a while as we waited for Richard and I told her that it’s difficult to see a country with such resources do so well in Bogotá and completely ignore Tumaco.

Richard showed me where to get lunch and I had shrimp and fish and avocado, which was great. Then in the afternoon a group of over 50 people came to IRD, where we along with doctors and the woman from the nutrition center weighed babies, took their height, checked for malnutrition (easily 85% of the kids were below weight and at risk for severe malnutrition). Appointments were made, vitamins and de-worming medicine distributed, and then I went home. Now I’m watching the Heat beat the Bulls (luckily I have a TV).

IRD workers conduct a malnutrition screening in Tumaco.

It’s funny, IRD wants me to come in and give advice, which I am not really comfortable doing and now just seems ridiculous. They are doing great work here, the people in the office work incredibly hard and anything I’ve said, they already know. It’s a lot like the Peace Corps in that I will definitely take away a lot more than I give. It’s only two months; there is no way that I can learn enough about the culture or the way things work here to make an impact. But, I don’t really need to. I think IRD does a great job of hiring people who are from here or close by to do the work. They know the situation intimately, they live here and love the community and because of that are doing great work that is easy to admire.


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