Thieves of Potential

Let’s call him V.

V is 12 years old and came to see me today. And V is a classic example of “chronic starvation“.

V’s got two sisters and a brother who are at school. They will be coming in tomorrow for an assessment too.

V’s so chronically starved that he is 20% of the normal height for his age. He is straight up 30 cm shorter than the average. A foot smaller. V is also 15 Kg lighter than the minimum weight for a 12 year old.

But he is a smiling child, the only sign of his starvation is seen when you notice he doesn’t play with the other kids. Merely watches.

Because of his anaemia, he cannot physically play without exhaustion. He is so anaemic he cannot even hold his breath for a few seconds. His pulse hammers along to pump enough oxygen throughout his body and his arms and legs are so thin that not only can I encompass them entirely in a single meaty paw (Okay that may be due to my massive hand size) but I am easily capable of looping my hand around both ankles and have the fingers touch.

He simply is that malnourished. His haemoglobin count is 4 mg/dl. Mine’s 17. A simple fever caused a haemolytic attack and hepatomegaly. (His blood exploded and his liver grew in size – not a good sign) thanks to his fragile condition.

He is the FIRST and ONLY case of Night Blindness I have seen. He has Vitamin A deficiency…

V is still smart and alert, but it’s a matter of time till he goes blind. Luckily I have started him on Vitamin A, Iron and Folic Acid. He also has had a course of metronidazole to kill any Hookworm infestations. This should stop this from progressing and reverse the disease but this requires months if not years of treatment and major socio-economic change. This is halting the further progression of damage.

But the damage is done. Poverty robbed this boy of his health. We simply do not know what this boy would have been capable of had he had a proper diet.

His father earns a whopping Rs 3000 a month and has 4 mouths to feed. His mother required major surgery (Hyperthyroid, so the gland had to be removed) so they have no savings and are in debt. To pay it off they live on just Rs. 3000 a month. This works out at Rs. 500 a head. Less than $10 a month.

The poverty line is defined as $1.25 per day.

Poverty and Starvation are the Thieves of Potential.


  1. mck9 says

    V’s so chronically starved that he is 20% of the normal height for his age. He is straight up 30 cm shorter than the average. A foot smaller.

    If V is 20% of the normal height, and 30 cm shorter than the average, then he is 7.5 cm tall, instead of the normal 37.5 cm.

    If I use the “foot smaller” measure, then V is four inches tall, instead of the usual 16 inches.

    That’s some severe malnourishment indeed.

    Or did you mean to say that V was 20% shorter than average? E.g. four feet tall instead of five? That’s a little more realistic, but still disturbing.

  2. feedmybrain says

    Is his night blindness genetic and worsened by being malnourished or solely due to malnourishment?
    I ask because I have retinitis pigmentosa and was of the impression that vitamin A wouldn’t help.

  3. CraniumRat says

    I am aware that we have these problems in India, but hearing a concrete example is something else entirely. I just donated something via Paypal… please help them in whichever way you can…

    And please keep reminding us that there are still children like that… it breaks my heart, but we have to try our best.


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