Blog Post

Case study: Abandoned and malnourished, Okuhle thrives again

4 April 2015

At two years old, Okuhle Nkonyana had failed to reach even the most modest developmental milestones. Severely malnourished, she weighed just 4kg, considerable less than the 10-12kg average for her age group.

The Donald Woods Foundation became aware of Okuhle’s desperate situation during a routine Health in Every Hut health screening visit to the grandparents’ homestead.

“It was one of the worst cases (of malnutrition) I’ve seen,” says Zanele Mkhwenkwe, a DWF Community Health Outreach Worker (CHOW), who now provides follow-up care to the family. “She was so, so tiny. We were very worried about her.”

Abandoned by her mother and left in the care of elderly grandparents, Okuhle faced a desperate future – but one not uncommon in the deeply rural areas of the Transkei, where deep, life-threatening poverty remains rife.

“She was with her grandparents, but they are elderly and could not look after her properly,” Zanele recalls.

With two small government pensions their only income, the grandparents were battling financially, and the little girl quickly fell further and further behind, both physically and developmentally.

“When we found her, she was only just crawling a little. She could not walk and wasn’t eating any solids. We immediately arranged for her to go to the clinic, where she was given her inoculations and also stated on vitamins and supplements.”

In addition to arranging for her immediate health needs to be addressed, the DWF team has also helped the family to apply for and access a government child care grant, which is going towards feeding and clothing the little girl.

As an embedded CHOW, Zanele, who also lives in the area she works, has developed a close relationship with the family, and visits them regularly to assess their needs and ensure Okuhle is thriving.

“I go the family every week or two weeks, to make sure she is OK, and to help the family if there are any problems. She is responding very well now. She has gained weight and is walking and playing. When we first saw her, she was just lying down and crying a lot. Now she plays and is like a normal, happy little girl.”

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