Bolivia: Saving Ingela

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By Abraham Marca, ChildFund Bolivia
Posted on 12/5/2016
Ingela 1

Sapahaqui is a rural town three hours away from Bolivia’s capital, La Paz. Our local partner organization there, La Primavera, serves several communities in the area. One initiative ChildFund supports through the partner is the training of community health volunteers known as guide mothers, who visit parents in the community to monitor children’s health and development and teach caregivers how best to help children along.

They also assist in community-wide health monitoring events, held regularly at the local early childhood development center, with doctors on site. At one session in 2014, one of the guide mothers exclaimed, “We have a very sick baby here!”

Ingela 2

The baby girl’s name was Ingela, and she was severely malnourished and dehydrated. Her mother, Cristina, had 11 older children, and 6-month-old Ingela was the youngest. Cristina felt hopeless about her baby’s condition. “There is nothing else to do,” she said.

The doctor’s diagnosis was clear: Ingela needed medical attention in the city because the community health center didn’t have enough resources to help her. Cristina said that she had no money to go to the city or buy medicines; she had been giving Ingela only natural medicines and infusions.

So staff from La Primavera took Cristina and Ingela to the nearest hospital, in El Alto city. The diagnosis: severe anemia, severe malnutrition, dehydration and pneumonia.

Ingela 3

For Bolivia’s children under age 5, mortality rates are high due to diarrhea (14 percent) and respiratory infections (27 percent)*, two of the main struggles that the youngest children face. In rural areas, where these numbers are higher, 37 percent of children suffer severe malnutrition before age 5.**

After a month in the hospital, Ingela gained weight; she went from 9.5 pounds to 10.1. The family received support from La Primavera throughout Ingela’s complete recovery: The organization worked with social services at the hospital to get Ingela’s medicine and treatment for free, and paid for the hospital stay itself.

Two years later, that episode is just a bad memory for the family. Now 2 years old, Ingela is a healthy 21.6 pounds and developing well, according to the results of her last visit to the Early Childhood Development center with her mother for health monitoring.

Ingela 4

“Those days were so hard for us,” Cristina remembers. “I didn’t have enough milk for Ingela, or money to save her. I am very grateful with the project and ChildFund for all the advice and support.” Now Ingela smiles and plays with her siblings. She is happy.

*World Health Organization, 2013
** World Food Programme, 2016