February 2019- When Hawa gave birth to her sixth child, Huda, the baby was well, the typical bouncing baby girl so to speak! But when Huda turned 10 months old, Hawa noticed that her baby’s health was beginning to deteriorate, so was her own health. At that time, she was also pregnant with her seventh child.
“I could hardly breastfeed my baby. I did not know what to do, I was just feeling helpless. I decided to stop breastfeeding for the sake of the baby I was carrying in my womb,” the mother of seven says, adding that she instead opted to feed Huda on goat milk.
The challenge with this though was that the family did not own any goats hence forced to buy milk, something they couldn’t afford to do daily. “Some days we bought the milk and other days we did not,” Hawa says.
According Dr. Takele Lakew, World Vision’s health and nutrition advisor the poor nutritional status of children as witnessed in the case of Huda can be traced back to the poor economic status at the household level that limits their purchasing abilities. “This is a common phenomenon among vulnerable groups such as Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs),” Lakew points out.
Nutrition programmes a lifeline for malnourished kids
“By not eating properly, yet continuing to breastfeed, Hawa was not only endangering her own health, but also that of the baby in the womb,” Lakew adds.
When Huda was first brought to the World Vision Outpatient Therapeutic Feeding Programme (OTP) at the Center 4 in Otash IDP camp in September 2018, she was underweight with just six kilogrammes (13 pounds) put into perspective, this is the average weight of a 3-months-old infant. Her Mid Upper Arm Circumference (MUAC), also used to assess a child’s nutritional status, was 10.7 centimetres.
The nutrition staff explained to Hawa that her child had Severely Acute Malnutrition (SAM), further explaining some of the factors that may have contributed to her condition. The medical staff also found that the child had been infested with worms which aided in undermining Huda’s nutritional status.
Hawa was given Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF), a highly nutritious peanut paste given to severely malnourished children to help boost weight gain. “I was instructed to feed her once every day, and also continue to give her milk,” she explains.
Hawa returned to the OTP centre for her daughter’s follow up checkup every two weeks and also to replenish the RUTF ration.
By mid-November 2018, Huda’s weight had improved to7.3 kilogrammes, as well her MUAC which measured 11.7 centimetres.
Partnering for enhanced nutrition of children
Through funding from the World Food Programme (WFP) and with the support of South Darfur State Ministry of Health (SMoH), World Vision was able to urgently and timely respond to cases of acute malnutrition, through providing malnourished kids such as Huda with therapeutic feeding. By the end of 2018, at least 8,000 children had been assisted.
In 2018, World Vision operated a total of 29 OTP centres, 12 Targeted Supplementary Feeding Programmes and two Stabilization Centres, where children as well mothers detected with malnutrition are treated and managed.
World Vision supports an ongoing Community-based Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) across South Darfur state, in seven localities that is, Nyala North, Belil, Netiga, Mershing, al Salam, Reheed and al Birdi. Some of the activities include mass screening of children which is considered critical in detecting early signs of malnutrition and thus enables timely treatment and management, as well health education sessions to educate mothers on such things as best feeding practices and the importance of a balanced diet.
Learn more about World Vision's nutrition programmes here
Story by Gamal Ghallab, WV Sudan communications officer