The Nepal Youth Foundation’s Nutritional Rehabilitation Homes (NRH) restore severely malnourished children to good health while educating their mothers about nutrition and childcare. When mother and child return to their village, the mother shares her new knowledge with her family and neighbors. The NRH have a success rate of over 93% (less than 7% of children is being taken back in by the staff in the follow-up process).
Half the children in Nepal under five are malnourished and poor nourishment is one of the leading causes of death for young children. The main cause of the problem is ignorance, rather than poverty.
In 1998, the Nepal Youth Foundation opened the doors of the first Nutritional Rehabilitation Home (NRH) in Kathmandu to nurse severely malnourished Nepali children back to health. Child and mother live together at the NRH during the course of treatment, usually about five to six weeks. While we rehabilitate the children, we educate their mothers in how to prepare nutritious meals using foods readily available in rural Nepal. The mothers are also instructed in how to pass on their knowledge to other mothers after they return to their villages.
After the mother and child are discharged, field workers follow up in the villages to check on the child’s health and to ensure that the mother is not only practicing what she has learned but is also educating other women in the community about nutrition and other good child care practices.
In 2002, we moved the NRH from its first home—the cramped fourth floor of a tall building that also housed a clinic—to a spacious house set on a nice piece of land that we have turned into a vegetable garden. The NRH is walking distance from Kanti Children’s Hospital, which works closely with us in referring children and mothers and helping with their medical problems. We also expanded the staff to keep pace with demand. Over 20 mother/child pairs at a time can now stay at the NRH, and we can serve about 220 pairs per year. Not only that, we have established eight more NRHs in outlying areas so that children throughout the country will be rescued, and we are in the process of constructing three additional NRHs.
USD340 will restore the health or save the life of a child, empower and train the mother, and prevent the problem from happening again.
This program is unique in Nepal. It is, quite literally, saving the lives of severely malnourished Nepali children and preventing mental or physical retardation in many others. By involving the mothers in this process, the outcomes have built-in sustainability.
The NRH program has succeeded beyond expectations, serving over 5,000 mother-child pairs to date. Each year, more than 1,000 children’s lives are transformed by this project.
Educate a Mother, Educate a Village
During the entire time the child is at NRH, the mother is taught how to maintain the health of her child. For example, our nutritionist gives training not only in what to feed children, but how to prepare food to retain its nutritional value. These precepts are demonstrated in our vegetable garden and our teaching kitchen. Nepali mothers usually do not feed vegetables to their young children. At the NRH, the cooks and the nutritionist teach them how to prepare vegetables in the most nutritious way. And they are encouraged to start growing vegetables when they return home. Everything used to feed the children is available in the villages of Nepal so that the mothers can continue the program once their children are discharged. The child is weighed every day, and the mother is kept informed of the child’s progress.
The mothers also are taught about hygiene, family planning, how to recognize symptoms of serious illness in their children, and how to prepare “jevanjel,” rehydration fluid from locally available substances. While we have the mother and child in our home, we resolve any other health problems they may have and ensure that the child has had all necessary vaccinations. The condition of the mothers is sometimes almost as serious that of their children. We restore the health of the mothers as well – they gain an average of 12 pounds during their stay at the NRH.
We evaluate this program carefully. Our doctors and nurses keep daily records on the weight and health status of children (as well as demographic information). Our field workers augment these data after the child is discharged. These records show that the project has been remarkably successful.