(KPL) It was such a pitiful moment when I first saw a skinny and stunted little girl in the countryside.
Her name is Aiy – she is just two years and one month old, and a member of the Khmu ethnic group in Bone village, Sopbao district, Huaphan Province. The village is approximately 13 km away from the Sopbao municipal centre.
Her grandmother, Ms Oiy, told me that when her granddaughter was born she weighed 3.5 kg and was in perfect shape.
“But you know?” she exclaimed, “Eight months later, she weighed only four kilograms because she was underfed with breast milk, foods and nutritional supplements.”
Ms Oiy, 60, said that her granddaughter was under-breastfed because her mother had to work to help her husband earn a living for their family.
Aiy was breastfed for only couple months after birth. Since then the young girl has been fed by her grandmother with the best rice, fish and other foods a low-income family in a rural area can find.
The family’s main occupation is rice farming, both in upper land and water-fed areas. Every day, during planting and harvesting seasons, the parents wake up early and walk several kilometers from their house to their farm, so they did not have enough time to take care of their child. The mother could not observe the six-month exclusive breastfeeding tip as recommended by nutritionists.
Due to poverty, the family has insufficient money to buy nutritional supplements or vitamins for their daughter.
I had a chance to visit the village early this month on a data collection trip as we needed data for making a micro planning project to help improve the nutritional status of children in rural and remote communities.
We rode a pickup and SUV for around 40 minutes in total from Sopbao urban centre to Bone village on a bumpy dirt road. This village is very hard to reach during the rainy season.
While collecting data in the village, a village volunteer, Ms Euam, who has engaged in an activity designed to improve the nutritional status of mothers and their children in Bone village for two years, said that the two-year-and-one-month-old girl currently weights merely 6.8 kg and is only 69 cm tall.
Aiy’s height and weight are much lower than the standard for her age.
According to the standard, Aiy should have a height of 83 cm or higher and weigh at least 10 kg.
“If I could ask for a blessing from god, I would like to see the government or international organisations introduce a project providing nutritional foods, vitamins, and medicine to my village because I want my granddaughter to grow up as normal child,” said grandma Oiy.