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Published: February 2, 2024

Keeping a community nourished: Beatrice Atieno’s daily fight against malnutrition

Beatrice Atieno is a health enthusiast who has always loved children. As Nutrition Assistant at Lwala Community Hospital, she is the epitome of a passionate health worker. This passion evolved from witnessing babies and children die from acute malnutrition when she was just a child herself–relatives, friends, and others in her village. Seeing these deaths instilled in her a deep desire to understand malnutrition at its roots.  

Beatrice started working for Lwala in March of 2022. Having worked in under-resourced health facilities in the past, Beatrice was hungry for an environment where she could put her skills, expertise, and creativity to good use.

Lwala Community Hospital quickly revealed itself to be the right place for her. “At a previous hospital, we were trying to treat clients but lacked drugs and nutrition commodities. We had no support from management. I loved my clients so much, but I would work for 3 months with no pay,” Beatrice recalls. “But at Lwala, we have everything we need to support clients–from nutrition commodities to assessment tools. We also have good teamwork and support from management. Our clients are so happy.”

A mother of four, Beatrice lives just 15 minutes from Lwala with her husband and four kids who range in age from 2 to 13. “I work Monday to Friday, but sometimes we have malnutrition cases come in on Saturday or Sunday, and I’ll go to the patient. I have that passion.”

Beatrice’s role at the hospital is multi-faceted. She ensures all babies who are brought for well-child visits are screened for malnutrition, and she provides education to mothers and fathers on nutritional needs during pregnancy and after childbirth. She also champions the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative, a certification process for hospitals that promotes and supports breastfeeding as part of maternal and newborn health services.   

At the heart of her role, Beatrice is a breastfeeding expert. She ensures all mothers who give birth at the hospital–6 to 10 births per day–are supported to navigate the challenges and complications of breastfeeding. The goal is that all mothers can successfully breastfeed their babies exclusively for the first 6 months, and in combination with solid food until 2 years of age, including HIV+ mothers with suppressed viral loads. Beatrice ensures male companions are brought on board to support the mothers with breastfeeding, which includes prioritizing a healthy diet for the mothers. 

Mothers who deliver at Lwala Community Hospital stay in the postnatal ward for 24 hours after delivery to ensure proper latching. Beatrice is there to help them initiate breastfeeding within the first hour after delivery and to provide guidance on positioning. “We also certify that they know how to express milk so they go back to school or work,” she says. “Regardless of HIV status, we want to support everyone to breastfeed for the first 6 months if possible. Our services are high quality and also free–so women want to come to Lwala Community Hospital to have their babies.” 

“Lwala Community Hospital is a better facility since Beatrice joined our team. She leads malnutrition support groups, she works diligently toward the nutrition department certification, she advocates for ensuring food security to different homesteads, and she offers continuous mentorship to staff on the management of complicated malnutrition. She is professional and exceptional!”
- Christine Onyango, Clinical Coordinator

A supported staff member is generally a happy one. What Beatrice loves most about working at Lwala is a full client load, a true sense of team, and the flexibility of working in different spaces and with different groups throughout the day. “At Lwala there is teamwork. I know we will do more for our clients as a team than we can do on our own. And there is support–my clients get the care they need. They get healed. And I go home a happy person.”

Agency, health, and wholeness of life.

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