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Amadou, Fanta and Bintou were sick. Their parents had no idea how seriously.

Symptoms characteristic of acute malnutrition like low weight-to-height ratios and fevers are difficult to diagnose if you aren’t trained. So when Diaketé Toumany, the local resident we trained as a community health worker in their rural village of Bougouroun, Guinea, indicated their health was cause for concern, the triplets’ parents were hesitant.

Toumany must win families’ trust quickly because timely diagnosis—followed by proper treatment and nutritional guidance for the family—can be the difference between life and death for children who are malnourished. So Toumany persisted. He convinced the family to bring the triplets to the local health post—but when they were told the children would need to be treated at a nearby health center, the parents remained skeptical.

“The key message to parents is that the health of their children is essential to secure their future,” Toumany says. “Staying at home with sick children will very quickly deteriorate their situation.”

Toumany appealed to the triplets’ grandmother: the children needed help—and the diagnosis at the health center was dire. All three were severely acutely malnourished and at nine months old, they weighed 12, eight and 11 pounds. Amadou had the highest fever at 102⁰—but Bintou was the most severely malnourished, weighing far less than what a child her height should.

The triplets’ conditions were in fact so critical that they needed to be transferred to a hospital in the nearby city of Siguiri. After six days of intensive treatment, their conditions stabilized, allowing them to continue treatment closer to home.

Once the triplets were discharged, Toumany’s work truly began. He made home visits to counsel the family on continued breastfeeding, hand-washing, and using local therapeutic foods like tiadeni. Mostly importantly, he ensures parents understand one thing: “children must be sent to the health center in the case of any health problems.”

Today the triplets are doing well, thanks to the persistence and nutritional advice of Toumany. But his work is never done. He has more families to educate, children to screen…and lives to save.