Smiling six-month-old triplet girls Nyachua, Nyajuak and Nyakime look the picture of health and contentment as they lie together holding hands in Gambella refugee camp in Ethiopia.
However, it was not a easy journey for the triplets or their mother Nyakan. At 28, Nyakan was forced to flee war-torn South Sudan and seek refuge in Ethiopia in 2014. The triplets were born in March as Covid-19 was declared a global pandemic.
As the world came together to fight the threat of Covid-19, the triplets had a huge fight of their own. Two of the triplets were found to be suffering from life-threatening severe malnutrition in their early weeks. Thankfully, GOAL staff were there to intervene and the babies received the vital treatment they needed to survive. They are now thriving.
Fighting infant malnutrition
Help came in the form of GOAL’s innovative infant nutrition programme, Management of At-Risk Mothers and Infants (MAMI). GOAL became the first International NGO to trial the innovative nutrition programme in 2016. The MAMI programme targets infants from birth up to six months of age, with GOAL implementing the initiative at four separate nutrition sites in two refugee camps at Tierkidi and Kule in Gambella.
The programme brings together a preventative and curative approach to infant malnutrition. And in the last four years GOAL has supported over 4,000 infants malnourished annually at these two large camps in Gambella.
The development of the MAMI programme was triggered by the historical assumption that all women could and should breastfeed infants from birth to six months. However, the UN estimates that only around 40% of the global population of under six months are exclusively breastfed. And it is estimated that approximately 8.5 million infants between birth and 6 months are suffering from acute malnutrition.
The triplets mum, Nyakan, has overcome many challenges that life threw at her. She grew up in the South Sudanese village of Mathiang. And like so many other children in her home village, there was limited access to health and education. She married when she was just eighteen, and had her first child.
Due to conflict during the South Sudanese war in 2014, Nyakan was forced to flee her village with her two year old daughter. It was a harrowing journey. Nyakan and her daughter were lucky to survive.
After five days without food or water Nyakan finally found safe haven. Clutching her daughter, exhausted, she arrived at GOAL’s refugee camp in Gambella. GOAL staff rushed to her aid and provided fresh water, food and shelter.
Surrounded by a safe support network and her loving family, Nyakan is now thriving.
After giving birth to the triplets Nyakan presumed she would not be able to produce enough milk to feed them all. However, with support and guidance from GOAL’s counselor she started breastfeeding confidently.
Alongside the medical support Nyakan has also been provided with a hygiene kit containing soap, buckets, baby cloths and blankets. She has been enrolled in GOAL’s Targeted Supplementary Feeding Programme (TSFP) where she will continue to receive support.
Thanks to the MAMI programme, and this vital support, Nyakan is so happy that her babies are thriving and healthy.
GOAL staff are delighted with the impact of the programme, “It is heart lifting to witness transformational change and the impact of our MAMI programme on the lives of young infants including these beautiful triplets,” Mary T Murphy, GOAL’s Refugee Programme Manager in Ethiopia, told us.
They are many challenges in GOAL’s refugee camps according to Mary, “but when I witness stories like this, it reaffirms the positive impact of GOAL’s work. Work that would not be possible without the help of our supporters.”
You can support mother’s like Nyakan and GOAL’s work in Ethiopia with a donation today.
*MAMI was conceived by the Emergency Nutrition Network (ENN) and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). GOAL was the first organisation globally to trial it.