Community collaboration makes a sick baby well

Updated Sep 12, 2018
Written by Loeurt Lun; Edited by Katie Hackett
A healthy newborn becomes a sick baby girl
When 17-month-old Sokha was born, she was a typical healthy newborn, weighing in at just over six pounds. It was after she was born that Sokha’s health took a turn for the worse.
In the days after delivery, Sokha’s mom, Chanty, found her body wasn’t producing milk for her newborn baby as it should have. 
“I had several symptoms such as coughing, fatigue, and anemia during my pregnancy,” Chanty explains. With her own health compromised, Chanty’s body couldn’t keep up with the demands of a growing baby. And without an adequate supply of breastmilk, Sokha didn’t receive the nutritional benefits of exclusive breastfeeding from day one.
As the months wore on, the little girl grew pale, malnourished and underweight. By nine months old, Sokha weighed only 12 pounds. And without much knowledge on how to care for her baby girl, Chanty relinquished Sokha’s care to her grandmother.
Sokha’s mom Chanty and her grandmother feed the baby girl healthy food while they play with her. Today, Chanty is hopeful about Sokha’s future. Photo: Loeurt Lun/World Vision
Newborn mortality in Cambodia
In the last decade, Cambodia has shown good progress in reducing mortality rates among children under five. Between 2010 and 2014, the number reduced from 54 child deaths to 35 per 1,000 live births, according to the Cambodia Demographic Health Survey.
Unfortunately, there has been considerably less progress made in decreasing newborn deaths, with over 50% of all child deaths in Cambodia occurring in the first month of life—while two out of every three newborn deaths occur in the first three days of life. Malnutrition is the underlying cause in 45% of all child deaths.
Community volunteer intervenes in Sokha’s life
Vun, 58, is a neighbour of Chanty’s. He’s also a deputy village leader and a community health volunteer. Vun had been trained to identify malnourished children and teach parents about nutrition, so when he noticed Sokha’s failing health, he enrolled her on the list of malnourished children in their area.
World Vision is working closely with communities across Cambodia to support the health of children under five, as well as pregnant and breastfeeding women. A crucial part of this work is the collaboration with local health centres and volunteers like Vun.
Thanks to Vun’s diligence and training, Chanty was enrolled in nutrition workshops where she learned to make healthy food for her daughter. After testing positive for parasites and anemia, Sokha was also prescribed moringa powder and deworming tablets, given regularly by health centre staff.
“[Now] I mostly cook with eggs and vegetables such as pumpkin and young ivy gourd leaves,” Chanty says. “I am very delighted to see that my daughter’s health is better. She has gained 2.5 kg and a recent test shows a negative reading for parasites. I appreciate World Vision’s help.”
The health support Chanty and Sokha have received have made all the difference for their little family—they eat nutritious food, practice good hygiene like proper hand washing and take advantage of their local health centre. They’re even seeing economic benefits thanks to the nutrition training Chanty received.
“Now, there is more income because I have a home garden,” says the mom. “My family is happy.”