By Josephine Ferreiro
WADI FIRA, Chad, 30 August 2012 – The fire that broke out at the Biltine health centre in Chad’s Wadi Fira region was something these people could ill afford.
|UNICEF correspondent Suzanne Beukes reports on child malnutrition in the Sahel belt region of Chad. Watch in RealPlayer|
Fifty-seven health centres serve almost 500,000 people in this region, and immunization coverage is at 67.7 per cent. The fire has put more pressure on already underequipped staff and scarce resources, as streams of women bring malnourished children in for treatment.
Immunization Director of the centre Fatime Maurice remembers, “I came to work one day. It was a normal day, and I went home for the afternoon. During the time I was home, one of the refrigerators burnt and went up in flames and burnt the whole centre, and this is why we are here at this tent doing the vaccinations. I ask for support to rehabilitate the centre.”
Global acute malnutrition rates well above emergency threshold
The global acute malnutrition rate for children under 5 in 9 of the Sahel regions of Chad is above the World Health Organization’s emergency threshold of 15 per cent, according to a new Standardized Monitoring and Assessment of Relief and Transitions (SMART) survey. Here in Wadi Fira, the rate is one of the most critical in the country, at just over 21 per cent.
|© UNICEF VIDEO|
|With underequipped staff and limited resources, the Biltine health centre in Chad’s Wadi Fira region is under extreme pressure as streams of women bring malnourished children in for treatment.|
The SMART methodology is used to measure the nutritional status and mortality rate of children in emergencies. The survey in Chad was conducted by UNICEF, the Ministry of Public Health of Chad, the World Food Programme and development partners between May and June 2012. It was funded with support from the European Commission Humanitarian Aid Department (ECHO), which has also funded most nutritional products, including ready-to-use therapeutic foods, therapeutic milk and essential medicines used for the treatment of severe acute malnutrition (SAM).
SMART Survey Team Leader of the Ouadai region in eastern Chad Temoua Djingwe discusses the implication of the results: “This survey, it covers children from 0 to 59 months to see what the conditions are in the area of nutrition. When you look at the young population, these children, the serious conditions that they have, shows you already how the population is. If children are in such a dire situation, that means everyone else is.”
Building local capacity a key for long-term improvements
UNICEF estimates that more than 127,000 children in Chad will be affected by SAM this year. As of April, 43,420 children under 5 with SAM had been treated.
|© UNICEF VIDEO|
|UNICEF estimates that more than 127,000 children in Chad will be affected by severe acute malnutrition (SAM) this year. As of April, 43,420 children under 5 with SAM had been treated.|
In a country that sees recurrent epidemics of polio, measles, meningitis and cholera – although no outbreaks of the last have been recorded recently – a longer-term strategy to improve the overall health and well-being of children must be put in place.
But for now, in the peak of the lean season, the focus is on making sure these children get the best care they can.
“We know that the situation will not change tomorrow, and UNICEF is supporting the Government – particularly the Ministry of Health – to try to increase local capacity in terms of health system services coverage, and to try and improve the capacity of the mothers, the fathers and the health system to detect malnutrition in the early stages, as malnutrition is really impacting heavily on the possibility for a child to survive and develop,” explains UNICEF Chad Representative Bruno Maes.
All efforts of UNICEF and its partners, the Ministry of Public Health and almost twenty NGOs have been made possible thanks to significant financial contribution from ECHO, the Governments of Australia, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, France, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Spain, Sweden and the United States of America and such UNICEF National Committees as those of France and Italy.
Food crisis in the Sahel