Maverick Citizen

CHILD MALNUTRITION CRISIS

While starving Gqeberha baby remains in ICU, community workers step up to help other mothers battling to feed their infants

While starving Gqeberha baby remains in ICU, community workers step up to help other mothers battling to feed their infants
(Photo: Gallo Images / Sowetan / Sandile Ndlovu)

After helping a baby that was close to death due to starvation, Julia Mbambo and Glenda Brunette from Walmer Angels, an organisation assisting in one of Gqeberha’s poorest townships, have helped more mothers who indicated that they too were in distress.

Following the hospitalisation of a Gqeberha baby with severe malnutrition, community workers found five more mothers struggling to feed their babies, and on Wednesday delivered emergency supplies of formula, baby porridge that can be mixed with water, spoons and bottles. 

Glenda Brunette from the aid organisation Walmer Angels said they would be able to help another 10 mothers on Thursday. The mothers are struggling to access the Child Support Grant as they do not have identity documents and because of this could not register their children’s births. 

On Sunday, a mother asked community worker Julia Mbambo, who runs a soup kitchen for Walmer Angels, for help with her five-month-old daughter.  

She was keeping the child alive with cooldrink powder as that was all she could afford. The baby is now in an ICU, where she is receiving oxygen and is on a drip.  

Following the publication of that story, generous donations by Daily Maverick readers have helped Brunette to buy baby food, formula and bottles for families that were also identified as being in severe food distress.  

Brunette said the image of the starving child whimpering and sucking her own finger will remain with her for the rest of her life.  

“I am so thankful that the mommy came forward. We wouldn’t have known,” she said.  

She said they were expecting a large donation of milk in the morning. 

Julia Mbambo on Wednesday afternoon went to deliver emergemcy supplies to moms in distress. (Photo: Supplied)


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Paula Proudlock from the Children’s Institute at the University of Cape Town said they had seen an increasing number of young mothers who are seriously ill with TB/HIV in the Mthatha area as they do not have food to take their treatment. 

She explained that because the Child Support Grant was below the food poverty line it was not enough to feed mothers and their children. 

“We work as hard and fast as we can to get them on to the Child Support Grant, the Social Relief of Distress grant or a disability grant, but sometimes they die before they see the first payment.  

“There are no food parcels in the Mthatha area. The health facilities don’t refer them to any support programmes. One of our moms was chased away by the doctor at the hospital when she went to ask for a disability grant assessment. The doctor said he would not help her until she started taking her treatment again. But she can’t take it without food. 

“Neither Sassa [South African Social Security Agency] nor the Department of Home Affairs has priority queues or home-visit services for sick moms who are too weak to stand in the queues.”  

Meanwhile, the Eastern Cape Department of Social Development’s Mzukisi Solani has still not answered questions about the distribution of food parcels for families and mothers in distress. DM/MC  

Walmer Angels has started a project to provide emergency baby and infant food, porridge and formula to mothers in distress in Gqeberha. Many mothers would like to breastfeed but, as they are not eating regularly, they cannot. If you can assist in any way, please get in touch with Walmer Angels’ founder, Glenda Brunette, at [email protected].

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