A report on malnutrition in Rwanda for World Vision

Killing unhurriedly

Pervasive stunting hampers poverty alleviation efforts

By Patricia Leidl and Didier Habimana

Jeanette is five years old but unnaturally tiny for her age. A year ago she could not stand, play with other children, eat solids or talk. The thin monotonous wail that convulsed her scrawny frame drove her mother, Esperance, to distraction. “I desperately feared that she might die”, says the 45-year-old. “Her hair colour changed. It turned orange.”

Jeanette was suffering from kwashiorkor, a micronutrient deficiency that causes oedema in the hands and feet, tooth loss, distinctive rust-coloured hair and a painfully distended belly. Her mother had reason to dread the worst. Left untreated, kwashiorkor can whittle a child away to practically nothing.

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