A clearly exhausted Sabina Chingala sits on her grandmother’s lap with her hands folded around her swollen belly. The 3-year-old almost manages to fall asleep until a coughing spasm jolts her awake.
Her fatigue and discomfort are understandable. Sabina is recovering from an acute worm infestation that almost killed her.
"The cough is a result of the worms that have moved all the way through her body to the esophagus," says Themba Nthani, a health officer at the Mwalumina Clinic in Zambia.
At first glance, it looks like Sabina is suffering from malnutrition. She is pale, stunted, and weak. Her legs, hands, and stomach are swollen, and she can barely eat or move.
As though this is not enough, the 3-year-old also has anemia caused by the worms that have infested her blood stream.
A bigger issue
Sadly, Sabina’s ailments are hardly uncommon for a child of her age in this part of the world. In the United States, infants who fall ill from childhood infections can simply visit a doctor and obtain basic medications to make them feel better.
In places like Zambia, however, it’s not nearly so simple. Extreme poverty often renders basic health interventions and treatments inaccessible — or unaffordable. A trip to the clinic can mean hours, or even days of travel. And when parents arrive with their sick children, they often leave empty-handed.
"The need for [medication] is high…sometimes we send patients away either because the government delays to disburse the drug kits or the drugs finish before the next kit arrives," confirms Themba.
‘I thank the donors in the U.S.’
Globally, some 24,000 children under 5 die every day from preventable, treatable diseases. World Vision is working to change this through our Child Health Now campaign — by lobbying world leaders to implement effective, low-cost solutions in countries like Zambia, and by partnering with generous corporations who donate medicines and supplies for us to distribute.
At the Mwalumina Clinic, such a partnership ultimately saved Sabina’s life. A World Vision truck loaded with donated pharmaceuticals arrived just in time to provide her with the deworming medicine they needed to save her life.
"I thank the donors in the U.S. who are providing these drugs to save children’s lives," says Themba. "Imagine how painful it would have been to see Sabina die just because we did not have the right drugs."
Thankfully, this painful scenario was not Sabina’s reality. Her appetite is back and she is able to walk around. Because of the drugs she received from World Vision, this little girl will be able to rest tonight.