The butterfly effect
The story of a mother who inspired others in the fight against malnutrition in Uganda
According to mathematicians, every single action we take can have a magnified consequence in the long term — just like the tiny flap of a butterfly’s wings can cause a tornado in a place far away, several weeks later. Often, people (myself included) make decisions and take actions without deeply reflecting on consequences and the possible impact on the lives of others — especially when these actions are considered “small.”
Luckily, there are people like Teresa in this world.
Teresa is a young and vibrant woman. Her hypnotic gaze immediately grasps my attention. It is deep, intense, almost intimidating. At times I feel embarrassed, but I soon start to understand that it is nothing personal: The way she looks at people is simply a reflection of her strong disposition, her confidence and, probably, her life journey.
Her voice, although decisive, at times has hints of fragility. As for her smile, I would be unable to describe it; I caught too few glimpses of it to be able to recall it.
Don’t get me wrong, mine was just a first impression, and beyond her apparent aloofness, Teresa was always kind to me and very loving with her children, with whom she lives in the Loputuk village, in Moroto, Uganda.
“When your child is sick, you are sick as well. You can feel the pain, you can’t concentrate on other things and the whole family becomes unstable and less productive.”
Five year-old Sylvia is the fourth of Teresa’s five children. A couple of years ago, Sylvia, who was very scared of my camera — I hope not of me — was enrolled in the Government’s Integrated Management of Acute Malnutrition (IMAM) Programme. With support from the World Food Programme (WFP) — but mostly through the determination of her mother — Sylvia soon recovered and left the programme, never to return.
It was at that moment that Teresa knew her “small” actions could make a difference; that she could change and save lives by helping other mothers fight such a distressful battle.
Ever since, Teresa has been sharing her experience and transferring her knowledge to afflicted mothers through community training sessions in which she explains the “whats” and “hows” that will help children overcome acute malnutrition.
In today’s session, Teresa happily announced the introduction of WFP’s technology as one of the whats and hows.
The message was positively received by the other mothers, as a spontaneous round of applause exploded right after Teresa said SCOPE CODA smartcards would replace all the current paper booklets by digitally storing all the information — a much more practical way to carry and store information, especially with the rainy season about to start and with booklets not being quite waterproof.
Once the session was over, I had a truly special chat with Teresa, with the rest of the family, and several noisy and curious children at her place. Maybe it was due to how well the training session went, or how the ice was broken (actually melted), but by the end of my visit, she was the butterfly with the brightest smile in the village.
Keep fluttering, Teresa.
The Government of Uganda, with support from WFP and UNICEF, has been implementing the UKaid-funded IMAM in the Karamoja region.
SCOPE CODA follows the IMAM treatment protocol, allowing frontline workers to record information; track an individual’s nutrition and health status; identify when a person has recovered; and indicate whether the treatment has been successful. The process involves an electronic database and a personal smartcard, given to each beneficiary upon enrolment, that holds treatment details required for follow up.