Djamilatou (on the right) and Fatoumata Sylla, the coordinator of the WFP-supported Dream Center clinic in Conakry. For more than three years, the two women have seen each other every week. WFP food rations have been an important part of the support Djamilatou has received. (Copyright: WFP/Katharina Dirr)
While she was pregnant with her first child, Djamilatou was told she was HIV positive. It was a huge shock and it left her reeling. But a friend advised her to go to a WFP-supported clinic and, as a result of following that advice, she now has two healthy children and is preparing for a return to the world of work.
CONAKRY – Djamilatou lives in the suburbs of Conakry, the capital of Guinea. Every week, the 34-year-old mother comes to the Dream Center -- a walk-in clinic that supports HIV patients with treatment, advice and, thanks to WFP, with nutritious food. When the woman starts to tell her story, she seems very shy, but as soon as she starts talking about her two healthy children, you can see how much energy and hope she has.
It was during her first pregnancy that Djamilatou discovered she was HIV positive. "I went to the hospital, because I always felt sick," she says. After some tests, the doctor gave her the news. “At first, I really couldn’t believe it. It was a huge shock. I had never ever considered that HIV could affect me.”
A friend advised Djamilatou to go to the Dream Center and she says that this advice changed her life. "Before I came here, I had lost a lot of weight and strength. I would have never had the money to buy all the medicine for the treatment.” But the most important thing for her was the support and advice she received to help her through her complicated pregnancy and the birth of her child by caesarian. “I am very thankful that both of my children are healthy. My son Alpha is 3 years old and my little daughter Mariama just turned 5 months. At the center, I also receive nutrition education to make sure that she grows up healthy and strong.”
Return to work
Since Djamilatou has been coming to the center for two years, her nutritional status is stable, as is her health. “For the moment I need some time to recover from the birth of Mariama, but as soon as the wound of the caesarian is healed I want to start working again to support my family.” For her the Dream Center is not only a place where she receives treatment and nutrition, it is a place that gives her hope. “There are other centers closer to my place, but I want to come here. Here I feel good.”
Fatoumata Sylla, coordinator of the center, says: “The social side of the weekly food rations is really important: for some patients they are one of main reasons for coming regularly to the center. This gives us the chance to build a stable relationship with our patients.” In addition, the nutrition support provided by WFP has a special impact on the progress of the treatment.
“The nutritional needs of people living with HIV are higher because of their weakened immune system,” explains Fatoumata. “We can improve the effectiveness of our treatment when we supply the patients not only with medication, but also with nutritious food.
Like Djamilatou, over 650 other patients living with HIV receive treatment at the Dream Center, every month. WFP provides them with Supercereal + sugar (CSB+), a specialized micronutrient vitamin and mineral mix that helps HIV patients to improve their nutritional status in a short period. The amount of the CSB+ rations depends on the body mass index (BMI) of each patient. In addition, WFP also supports family members of HIV patients. Because they are especially food insecure, they receive rations of rice and oil fortified with vitamin A and D.