Earlier this month, a team of three students and three adults traveled to Haiti to serve at the Canaan Christian Community, an area our church has been serving in for several years. They were delighted to see familiar faces and catch up with old friends, all while ministering to the people there. Stacy Green, one of the adults from Westwood, wrote the following essay about their experience serving at the Mamba Clinic.
The Mamba Clinic: From Heartache to Hope
We were in a little room watching the nurse take pictures and weigh the tiny babies. One of us took pictures and the other took notes on how old and how much each child weighed. Many of the ages charted are incorrect. Babies are often born at home. A lack of official records and general miscommunication leads to much guesswork on actual ages for medical records.
The first baby we saw was severely malnourished. Little sunken cheeks, twig-like arms and legs. She looked so frail sitting there getting her pictures taken. It was her first day at the Mamba Clinic. After she was examined, she was dressed in a fluffy pastel dress that was too large but appropriate for Easter Sunday. Such an odd sight—to see a starving baby in a fancy dress.
One of the next children to be seen was deathly ill. Her chart listed her age as 30 months, and she seemed tall although she only weighed 9 kilograms (20 pounds). Emaciated, she could not hold herself up. She had been suffering from diarrhea and needed to be treated at the hospital before the Mamba program could benefit her. We later learned that her actual age is 4 years old; that is why she seemed so tall … she only weighed 20 pounds.
So many little malnourished children. It was not until we returned from the clinic and began sifting through our notes that we could really begin to understand the hope that the Mamba Clinic brings. Except for the little girl who was suffering from diarrhea and went to the hospital, all of the children we personally observed who had been on the program for a length of time had gained weight!
As we reviewed the medical chart information, baby after baby registered an increase in weight. Reflecting on the experience, we also remembered that they were noticeably healthier than the children who were new to the program—brighter eyes, fuller cheeks and limbs, and less lethargy.
Mamba is a 3-month nutritional program. If the mothers follow the program, the children show improvement very quickly and can regain the strength they need to survive. That means there is hope for the little boy who waved to us as his mother passed by. There is hope for the baby girl who hid her eyes from us in shyness. There is hope.
The Mamba Program:
- The Mamba Program is a nutritional program to promote weight gain in severely malnourished infants and young children.
- Mamba is a paste-like substance that comes in squeezable individual packets and looks like peanut butter. It is a high calorie, high protein, nut-based product that has proven very effective in the treatment of malnutrition.
- Malnourished babies can begin the program at the age of 6 months.
- Weekly checkups are required to record weight fluctuations. One week’s supply of Mamba packets is given at each weekly visit.
- The Mamba Program is structured as a 3-month program. The babies are usually much stronger and ready to go off the program by the end of the third month. If they are still struggling with weight, they can remain on the program.
- The Mamba Clinic located at Canaan may see an average of 60 undernourished babies and young children every Tuesday.
- Nutritional Need – A Sobering Note: I asked one mother what the children receive at home to eat. Her answer was eggs, bananas, soy beans, corn, grits, and carrot juice. In reality, the daily meals may consist of sugar water, a piece of bread, a cheap cookie at night … and dirt.
Please consider ways you can financially support Canaan Community as they promote God’s love in an area of extreme poverty. For more information, see Stacy Green or Teri Sullivan.
Get a glimpse of what the Haiti team experienced while there: