“Well that child’s not starving, look at their fat belly!” people often say when looking at our photos of Rwanda. Westerners tend to associate bloated stomachs with obesity.
Many types of extreme undernourishment and malnutrition manifest in a distended big belly. ‘Kwashiorkor’ is the most common form of acute malnutrition that occurs in children.
Kwashiorkor is the result of severe malnutrition or lack of protein and often calories as well. It’s extremely serious and results from such severe nutrient deficiencies that a child experiences oedema or swelling.
Proteins maintain the fluid balance in the body. Without proteins, fluid shifts to areas where it shouldn’t be. If a child does not receive treatment or better nutrition, the condition can prove deadly.
A child constantly living on just rice and beans may fill themselves up and get some calories, but such food lacks sufficient nutrients and protein. Rice and beans are the staple diet of impoverished Rwandans.
Many children with kwashiorkor have stunted growth due to malnutrition at an early age or even during foetal development. These two boys are both 11 – Emmanuel on the right has been malnourished from birth.
If a child does not receive treatment or better nutrition, Kwashiorkor can prove deadly.
Which is why PF projects always include a nutritional structure.