A success story about CFK Africa’s nutrition interventions in Kibera.
Written by Carol Meja, CFK Africa Communications Manager
When 16-year-old Laurine Akinyi decided to leave her idyllic village in Suba to come to Nairobi’s Huruma estate to look for a job, she was sure her life would change for the best. Even though she was intelligent and did well in school, her poverty-stricken parents were unable to support her in getting a high school education. Her childhood friend, who lived in Nairobi, had promised her that she would become wealthy in just under a year if she came to Nairobi. She described Nairobi as a place of endless opportunities, and her stories filled Laurine with child-like faith.
As she travelled on the bus from Suba to Nairobi, her eyes brightened when she thought about the lavishly dressed television characters that she would soon dress like. Armed with her class 8 certificate, she was sure that she would be employed in a hotel or an office where she would wear high heels, short dresses, and make-up to work every day. She imagined how she would come back to the village during the Christmas holidays and meet her peers who would be struggling with their high school education, and they would be impressed with all she had accomplished.
A Dream that Turned into a Nightmare
No sooner had she settled into her house manager’s job in Nairobi than she realized that her dreams were just that, empty dreams. She was disappointed that her life wasn’t as she’d imagined because she couldn’t get a better job. After a few months, she met her husband and got pregnant three years later. Her husband rented a house for her in Kibera, one of the world’s largest informal settlements. As a jobless young and inexperienced new mother, she lost one of her twin children due to breathing difficulties the very day they were born.
“My son died because he couldn’t breathe. At that time, I was so confused. I didn’t know what was happening because I was only 19. I was lost, alone, and devastated. I was struggling with poverty because my husband had left us,” she sadly remembered.
Knowing that she did not have her husband’s financial support, she did menial jobs in Kibera while taking care of her only son. As much as she tried, she couldn’t afford to give him nutritious meals, and he became severely malnourished.
In 2020, her husband came back, claiming that he wanted to reconcile with her and fix their marriage. During this season, Laurine became pregnant and gave birth to twins during the COVID-19 pandemic when Kenya was facing a serious economic downturn. A year later, Laurine was pregnant again with her last child and languishing in desperate poverty. Her husband had left her again and did not come to see their children often. She had no food, couldn’t work, and her three children were slowly dying of malnutrition and lagging in achieving their developmental milestones.
“In 2021, I was at the lowest point in life. I was so helpless because I had four children who needed me. I could not leave them with anyone to go to work because they were sickly, hungry, and couldn’t talk or walk. They would cry all day and all night in my dark and dingy house, and nobody cared to come and check on me. I felt so alone and abandoned in the world,” she tearfully reminisced.
Finding Hope for the Future
In September 2022, Laurine got wind that CFK Africa’s nutrition program was conducting a growth monitoring program in the community of Kibera. The goal of growth monitoring exercises is to examine the children in the community for malnutrition and offer immediate intervention. Laurine gathered the little strength she had and took all her children for an assessment.
“Laurine brought all her children for growth monitoring, and we told her that they were all wasted and severely malnourished. Neither of her children could walk, talk, babble or even smile. They appeared hungry and emaciated, and all our staff were deeply concerned about the children. We took immediate action and organized a transfer to Mbagathi Hospital where she was put on a strict nutrition plan while we got approval to do follow-up,” explained Sharon Talam, a nutritionist at CFK Africa’s Tabitha Maternity Home.
Due to the seriousness of Laurine’s case, CFK Africa pooled resources together to ensure she had food for herself and her children and paid for the medication required at Mbagathi. CFK Africa’s nutrition department has been closely following up on Laurine’s case ever since.
Today, Laurine’s children are healthy and strong. Her 2-year-olds Stanley and Jeremy Victor can afford a smile and have started playing about, although they are not walking yet.
“The children are on a sure path to recovery and will soon walk after they undergo therapy and continue feeding well. Every time I go to their house to bring them to Tabitha Maternity Home, I feel so happy because they are alive and well. The food supplements that they receive from us from time to time have helped them stay on course and become healthy and strong. We love our jobs here because we literally save lives,” concluded Bentado, a Field Officer with CFK Africa’s nutrition project.
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