Nutritional Rehabilitation Homes
How the NRH Operates
Mothers, often referred to us by hospitals, bring their malnourished children (most of them babies or toddlers) to the Nutritional Rehabilitation Home near Kanti Children’s Hospital in Kathmandu. The mothers and children live at NRH, while the NRH staff – two part-time doctors, a nutritionist, nurses, and others experienced in community-based nutrition programs – return the child to health and educate the mother or the father (if he is the caretaker) in all aspects of child care.
Many of the children are in an appalling condition when they are admitted. Pitiably thin and fragile, unable to stand or walk, some of them cry constantly and inconsolably. Others are almost catatonic, staring straight ahead, oblivious to any stimulus.
This phase doesn’t last long, though. As soon as they arrive, they are bathed, changed into traditional children’s clothing instead of a hospital uniform, and fed “sarbottam pitho,” a high-energy, high-protein, easily digestible mixture of grains and greens. The crying stops. Thereafter, the child is fed several times a day in small amounts until he or she can eat the ordinary diet of all Nepalis – rice, lentils, and vegetables. Each day, quite literally, there is a visible improvement. The child who was admitted last week pitifully frail, crying, and unable to keep food down – the embodiment of a Gerber baby in reverse – is now less upset, more alert, and eating regularly. Next week, he/she will venture a tentative smile, and the mother will look calmer and healthier. One more week, and the child will clearly be stronger and will have gained some weight. And so it goes, day by day. After an average of about five weeks, it’s hard to recognize the lively, smiling, plump little thing who was admitted in such a wretched condition a short time ago. Read on to see some of these miracles.