Donkao’s Success Story

26 02 2013

I was asked to submit a “success story” from my service to the Embassy newsletter. I thought I would post it here since it’s also a good update on how the second round of my nutrition project has been going. Enjoy!

Donkao is an energetic two year-old who lives with his family in a village off the national highway connecting Phnom Penh to Siem Reap. Like many kids his age, Donkao loves to run outside with his friends, play with the family’s soccer ball, and climb on anything his mother will allow. Donkao’s giggles are infectious.

 
Unfortunately, when Donkao was weighed as part of a Peace Corps-sponsored childhood nutrition project, he was underweight for his age. Childhood malnutrition is a devastating, yet widespread, problem in Cambodia that can ultimately result in death. In Donkao’s village, more than one in four children under the age of five is underweight, with the number reaching 50 percent in villages nearby.

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Donkao’s mother recognized the importance of his health and began attending community meetings as part of the Peace Corps project. For ten consecutive days, families from this village gathered to learn how to make a nutritious weaning porridge, participate in health education sessions, and counsel one another on issues related to health and parenting. At the end of each session, the children filled themselves with porridge, which was fortified with eggs, pumpkin, green vegetables, and other nutritious foods brought by the families.

 
The community meetings were led by residents of the village, who had previously attended a training event organized by the local health center and the area’s Peace Corps volunteer. Donkao’s mother and grandmother participated actively throughout these meetings, and after only ten days Donkao gained 700 grams (1.5 lbs). This propelled Donkao into the healthy weight range for his age, reducing his chances of becoming ill and increasing his ability to develop at an appropriate rate. Donkao was not alone in his weight increase. In fact, fifteen other children in his village gained weight, with six others already reaching what is considered a healthy weight for their age.

 
When asked why she chose to participate in the project, Donkao’s mother said that she wanted her child to grow up to be intelligent, strong and healthy. Following the initial community meetings, both his mother and grandmother showed an increase in their understanding of complimentary feeding, hygiene, and breastfeeding practices. With this knowledge, the family can help Donkao remain at an ideal weight for his age, which has implications for his future education, wellbeing and potential.

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In the coming months, project volunteers will be working with Donkao’s family, and others, to ensure that their children are able to maintain a healthy weight. Monthly weighing sessions, regular health education, and periodic home visits will ensure that these families are supported in their efforts to raise healthy, happy children. To date, 87 percent of the participating families have seen sustained weight gain over the duration of the project.

 
Currently, more than sixty families from Siem Reap Province are participating in this project, made possible with assistance from the United States Peace Corps through USAID’s Small Project Assistance fund.

Katie

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