A white-coated nurse holding a blue and white, half-litre bag of milk stands in front of a small group of mothers seated near the entrance of the Nutrition Rehabilitation Home in Kathmandu.
She is explaining the importance of feeding milk to their children, who are lolling on their mothers’ laps. On a table behind the nurse are containers of pulses and legumes and leaning against the wall, charts displaying leafy vegetables.
But later, listening to the women’s stories, it is apparent that solving their children’s problems will require more than a healthy diet. Through tears, Chandra, 24, says she brought her son Raju, 21 months, to the Home after a routine hospital check-up found that he was malnourished.
His father, who Chandra was forced to marry, bought barely enough food for them to survive, says the woman. That deprivation, plus physical beatings and “mental torture” caused Chandra to flee their village home for Kathmandu.
Mother and son arrived in January at the 24-bed facility perched on a hill on the outskirts of the city, where housing colonies sprout on former farm fields. In the month since then, Raju has gained 1kg in weight and is much stronger.
The boy will stay at the Home for a few more weeks, says Sunita Rimal, coordinator of the Malnutrition Prevention and Treatment Program at the Nepal Youth Foundation, which runs the Home. By then she hopes to have found some work in Kathmandu for Chandra via her informal channels, so that the mother-son pair don’t have to go back.