The Healthy Truth


Kyambi gives her daughter, Lea, Vitamin A drops.

False beliefs can hinder us from making good decisions—and sometimes even from making choices that save a life. That was the case for a mother named Kyambi in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). She believed in an untrue explanation about vaccinations that almost caused her daughter to die.

Living in Mwingiji village in the Katanga Province, Kyambi believed that if her 1-year-old daughter, Lea, received vaccinations for diseases that dead ancestors would come during the night and kill Lea. Many of the parents in Kyambi’s village believed the same thing about their children.

When Kyambi’s daughter got sick with diarrhea, she took her to the village healer, who used herbal medicines. While some of the herbal remedies helped children in other circumstances, this time it made Lea worse.

After six days of treatment, Lea’s belly became bloated. At age 1, Lea’s body couldn’t handle the depletion of nutrients and water. As Lea weakened physically, the healer told Kyambi that the treatment was failing and instructed the family to leave.

Kyambi and her husband carried Lea four miles to the nearest health center. She was seen by a nurse who gave her medicine that helped Lea to recover fully in three days. The nurse asked the parents if Lea had received vaccinations, and Kyambi told the nurse what she believed about her ancestors.

oneThe nurse appealed to Kyambi to attend a Food for the Hungry (FH) care group. In the care group, Kyambi learned about nutrition, vaccinations, monitoring her child’s growth and development and basic hygiene practices to reduce the spread of diseases.

Then Kyambi started sharing this information with her neighbors, who also started practicing better nutrition and hygiene. They understood the importance of vitamins and vaccinations in keeping their infants and young children healthy.

“My ignorance was the reason my daughter could die,” said Kyambi. “Today, I can understand if Lea followed the whole immunization schedule, she could be protected from diseases. From now on, all my children and those of my neighbors will begin to follow this schedule.”

Now, Kyambi is a mother leader, which means she is a trusted source for health information in her community. Recently, she took her daughter and many of the village children to the health center to receive vaccinations, Vitamin A and deworming medicine.

It’s reported that the health of the children in her village has improved, which will prevent unnecessary deaths caused by treatable illnesses. This is the kind of difference you make when partnering with Food for the Hungry. Together, we are using simple solutions to save lives.

About Renee Targos

Renee is a former journalist and editor for national arts and business publications. As a writer for Food for the Hungry, Renee explores and reports on the work and relationships of partners, FH staff and impoverished communities.

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