|© UNICEF 2007/CAR/ Holtz|
|Nutritional supplements and education are helping to save the lives of displaced children in the Central African Republic.|
By Emily Bamford
PAOUA, Central African Republic, 4 October 2007 – Florence and her 10-month-old son Heritier live in a camp for internally displaced persons just outside Paoua. Recently, Heritier suffered from severe dehydration and was underweight and malnourished.
He also suffered from a cleft palette, which drastically affected his ability to breastfeed. For a child living in the bush with no access to medical services, a cleft-palette can be life-threatening.
Heritier was in critical condition, but because of the isolated location and lack of medical facilities in the area, Florence’s options for her son were limited So UNICEF supplied Florence and her son with basic items such as a plastic cup, a spoon and soap. They instructed Florence on hygiene practices and gave advice alternate ways to supply her child with life-saving breast milk. Three weeks later, Heritier’s weight had almost doubled and he was no longer dehydrated.
A common problem
Supplementary feeding programmes are not always the best option to fight malnutrition, particularly for displaced people in the Central African Republic who are mobile and dispersed throughout the bush.
In an effort to reduce diseases which are often related to malnutrition, training in water and sanitation is being planned. It is hoped that once the conflict ends, these new skills will fuel long term social and economic development in the region.
Severe malnutrition is not an uncommon problem among displaced. Heritier is just one example of how simple, community-based interventions can save lives.
UNICEF strongly supports building on existing strategies to deal with problems such as malnutrition. This kind of approach is vital in order to build sustainable solutions to ongoing problems.