west pokot county, KENYA

Meet Emily & Hebron

“I am happy with myself because I took the bold initiative to bring the baby to the health centre. If I wouldn’t have done that Hebron would not be here now.”

After crossing through many mountain...

ridges in the hilly rift valley of West Pokot, Kenya, Emily’s home is finally in sight. Emily, mother of baby Hebron, lives with her family at the top of a steep hill in an area many hours away from any town. In the foothills of the mountain there is a health centre supported by Action Against Hunger, this is the place where nine-month-old baby Hebron was brought back to health.

“The baby was in a very bad situation. If I hadn’t brought Hebron to the health centre he could have even died,” says Emily while holding sleepy Hebron on a hot day at the health centre. Many mothers sit beside her, holding their inquisitive babies. Some are clearly new arrivals due to their thin appearance, but others, like Hebron, are well into the program as evidenced by their playful eyes and plumpier arms.

A nurse prepares to perform an MUAC (Mid-Upper Arm Circumference) test for malnutrition on Hebron.

“When I started introducing other foods...

to the baby, that’s when the problem began...I didn’t have enough food and I didn’t have enough milk,” continues Emily as she relives the difficult experience. “All the time my baby was having the flu, all the time he had illnesses. Because there wasn’t enough food in my house, my baby started to become weak and thin which worried me.”

Inadequate dietary intake is one of the immediate causes of malnutrition. But, in Hebron’s case something else was contributing to his quick health decline, as Emily recalls.

A nurse walks Emily through a presentation on nutrition.

hebron was admitted and given...

intravenous fluids. He was diagnosed with Malaria and Typhoid when I came to the health centre. The main reason, I was told, was lack of food, especially milk, we don’t have milk.”

Diseases can be immediate causes of malnutrition, especially when they cause the baby to be unable to retain food. When there is no milk, and not enough nutritious food to get vitamins and minerals, a baby can’t heal properly. For Emily and her husband, it is not easy to get enough food for their nine children – especially during a harsh drought.

“The land is there but the problem is the drought. Sometimes we cultivate but because of the lack of rain the crops dry up and we end up without any food,” explains Emily as she looks at the dry landscape at points at the grassless land. “We had some cows but we sold most of them to pay for school fees and the last cow we had died due to the drought.”

Despite the harsh climate, Emily walked for two hours down the rocky mountain where her home is, carrying baby Hebron on her back, so that he could have his check-ups and Plumpy Nut on time.


Hebron eats the contents of a packet of Plumpy'Nut with his mother Emily's help.

"I am happy with myself because...

I took the bold initiative to bring the baby to the health centre. If I wouldn’t have done that Hebron would not be here now,” says Emily as baby Hebron slowly wakes up. “Some women sometimes give up. In fact, today I haven’t seen some of the women I normally see here. Some women don’t come as often as required...Even if it’s far you must bring your child.”

Hebron is looking healthier and he plays around much more than in the past, says his mother. With his health on the right track, Emily can focus again on her dreams for her child.

Photos and Story by Susan Martinez for Action Against Hunger