Melody had orange hair…not dyed, but a clear sign of advanced malnutrition.
Every day at least once a day, women and young girls cook the traditional corn meal staple food (nshima) in big pots over open fires. Their pots boil with the ingredients they can afford - if they can afford them. But first they have to carry enough water and wood to start a blaze hot enough to cook the thick corn meal. Children of all ages are gathered nearby. Babies are cradled to the backs of the women, leaving their hands free. These loving caregivers labor diligently to feed their families, but children like Melody are seen everywhere. Orange hair is not a rarity but a reality.
Melody and her brothers and sisters were severely malnourished. When this happens, their bodies shut down anything they don’t need in order to survive. This includes the pigment of their hair, so a child’s hair becomes orange. Melody and her brother, Lamar, were so malnourished they even lost their orange hair. Both their mother and father are unemployed with no means to give their children the extra calories they so desperately need.
The crisis nurseries in Lusaka provide food for the most severely affected children. We are careful to give them nourishment that is full of vitamins and minerals, food like infant formula, groundnuts (a Zambian peanut) and, when the budget allows, an added supplement called HEPS or high energy protein supplement.
Little by little, Melody and her siblings are responding to the good food and the support and encouragement provided to the family by the crisis nurseries social work staff. Will you help us increase the number of children we can feed?
Ebralie Mwizerwa, Projects Coordinator
The Outreach Foundation