Canada’s Assistance to UNICEF and Ghana’s Nutrition programme is saving lives
Wadudu is an energetic healthy four year old boy, but when he was two, he became very ill and seriously underweight, his parents Alhassan and Safura thought they would lose him. For a month hisparents treated him with traditional herbs but he only got worse. In Tolon, located in the northern region of Ghana where Wadudu and his parents live, malnutrition is common but it is not considered a medical condition because often many parents believe it is a curse from the gods. Luckily, health workers visited the community on an outreach and found Wadudu weighing 5.8 kilograms. They encouraged his parents to take him to the health center where he was put on therapeutic foods. “At the hospital the nurse put a tape around his forearm and told me that Wadudu had not received enough attention from me that’s why he had become so thin, and then they gave him food like groundnut paste in a sachet.” Safura says this is what saved her son’s life. After many visits to the clinic which receives support from DFATD-Canada grant to UNICEF, Wadudu’s mother, Safura was counselled on how to care for her son and how to fortify his meals with beans, leafy vegetables and groundnuts. “My son gained weight rapidly and I followed the instructions diligently. The health volunteer in my community and the health worker visited me often and encouraged me”
“Regularly I point other women who have malnourished children to health workers and our volunteers who visit us. I show them the new ways of cooking so that their children will be healthy” Safura
In the past, managing malnutrition in Tolon was done only at the facility level with minimal understanding of the nutrition components. Access to a health facility coupled with their belief system made it difficult for children to receive medical attention. Now, that has changed with the introduction of Community Management of Acute Malnutrition, (CMAM) approach. The CMAM approach is innovative because it involves both the community and health workers in the detection and referral of cases. It brings the management of malnutrition to the doorsteps of community members. CMAM also provides information on better care practices and health workers and community volunteers are more responsive and proactive to children with the condition.
In the past caregivers received from health workers one- way information on how to care for their malnourished children, but with the CMAM programme, health workers have been trained to counsel caregivers, negotiating with mothers to reach an agreement in their feeding process using behavior change strategies. Safura is currently nursing a week old baby and says that the experience is going to make her care better for her new baby “ I did not know in the past how to care properly for my son but I am happy now that I have another chance to do better for my daughter. I am exclusively breastfeeding my baby as I have been told that this is good for her,”
When UNICEF visited Safura, she indicated that her experience had made her a reference point for other families with similar situations. “Regularly I point other women who have malnourished children to health workers and our volunteers who visit us. I show them the new ways of cooking so that their children will be healthy” Safura
Community Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM in Tolon
CMAM, an innovative approach which involves both the community and health workers in the detection and referral of malnutrition cases was introduced in Ghana in June 2007 following a national workshop.It was introduced in Tolon in 2011 and since then over 75 percent of children who were enrolled in the program have recovered successfully Health workers and community volunteers have gained and are applying knowledge of new protocols governing the management of malnutrition under the CMAM program. As a result, Monitoring of children in the communities has improved significantly and this is contributing to identifying and referring more children for treatment. Technical support to build the capacity of health workers was funded by UNICEF and DFATD-Canada.