Defined by a Moment

In Indonesia, a mother we met last year bore witness to the tangible effects of our deworming tablets.

By Elysia Cook

One, two, three, four…Yuliana, a young mother in Indonesia, counted the worms to thirty-five.

The health workers had forewarned her about the worms, noting the possibility that they may exit in  her two-year-old daughter’s stool once she took the deworming tablet provided by Vitamin Angels. But on that day, nothing could have prepared any mother for the shock.

Only moments before, the worms had been inside of Ferlinda, her littlest child, who her mother recalled was “very uncomfortable” up until that point. She had been crying a lot, Yuliana shared; it was Ferlinda’s only way of expressing the discomfort she experienced from the soil-transmitted helminths (STH or intestinal parasites) that resided in her intestines. (1/5)

Combined with her other ailments – frequent fevers, cough and a cleft lip – the effects of the worms only aggravated the toddler’s vulnerable condition.

“She never wanted to eat. She would eat some rice, but was very uninterested overall,” Yuliana said.

Luckily, the defining moment – startling as it was – signified a turning point for the better. Once Ferlinda received deworming treatment and passed the parasites from her small body, her health drastically improved.

“She used to have appetite problems, but now she is better,” Yuliana proudly told us. “She is more cheerful.” (2/5)

Ferlinda’s renewed desire to eat was a milestone, considering that Yuliana already goes to great lengths to put nutritious meals on the table. At only 27, she bears the sole responsibility of raising three of her daughters – a challenge that is both rewarding and taxing. A year and a half earlier, her husband passed away from throat cancer, suddenly leaving Yuliana a widow and single mother.

Life without her husband is often difficult, she admitted. “Everything we need is on me. Every problem, I have to deal with myself,” she said. (3/5)

Since then, she’s taken on the dual role of caregiver and provider for her household, but her ability to adapt doesn’t quell the pressure to provide.

A common meal, she shared, consists of rice and whatever vegetable is available; she also incorporates cassava or sweet potato leaves when they’re at hand.

The limited supply of food is enough to sustain her and her little ones, but fails to provide the adequate nutrients her daughters need to reach their full potential.

And while they have access to a river for water, the lack of water treatment resources means that the water used for drinking and cooking may be contaminated. It is highly possible that this is how Ferlinda contracted the parasites. (4/5)

With the vitamins provided by our field partner in Indonesia, though, Yuliana has some peace of mind that her daughters are better protected against parasitic infections and malnutrition.

Now, she can dedicate more of her time and energy to watching her girls grow up healthy and strong, and to making their lives more fruitful than her own. (5/5)

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