|© UNICEF Côte d'Ivoire /2009/Gangale|
|Silué Kewa Tchewa with her newborn at home in Korhogo. After giving birth to this, her ninth child, she faced difficulties producing milk. She is being assisted at a UNICEF-supported therapeutic feeding centre.|
ABIDJAN, Côte d’Ivoire, 1 April 2010 – Since her ninth child was born, Silué Kewa Tchewa‘s breasts have not produced a drop of milk. As a result, her six-week-old, Fatoumata, is underweight.
But the baby recently gained nearly 200 grams in – just a few days – when she was brought to a UNICEF supported Red Cross therapeutic nutritional centre.
“After the birth, I didn’t have milk for two weeks,” Ms. Tchewa says. “A neighbour spoke to me about this centre, but I hoped that I would produce milk again. I bought drugs from the pharmacy to stimulate lactation, but that only worked for two hours.”
Blaming evil spirits
“When the child is malnourished, its growth is slowed down. The parents don’t like this and blame evil spirits,” said Red Cross nutritional centre manager Salimata Coulibaly. “Some abandon their child. Our first task is to explain why the child is sick, the causes, and how they can get better.”
In this rural area, cotton was once the main crop. The economic crisis – combined with a political crisis in Côte d’Ivoire – has weakened many families. Farmers are forced to sell all their vegetables to make ends meet, without keeping part of their crop for their own consumption.
In the villages, the incidence of malnutrition is very high. UNICEF works with the public authorities and NGOs to reach out to these communities and improve their understanding of nutrition issues. Community health workers conduct local follow-up outreach visits.
Providing food and care
Today, at the rural dispensary in Bahouakaha, four volunteer health workers arrived to see to the nearly 150 women eager to weigh their infants.
In the crowd, Yegnon Silué watched on as the health workers took measurements of his small daughter, Salome, who is just under two years old. Last month, the scale read 8.7 kg right before she suffered a bout of severe diarrhoea. Today, she weighs just 7.9 kg. As a result, Mr. Silué was directed to the dispensary, where he will receive a bag of beans and a kilo of soya flour to last the week.
In more serious cases, children are referred to the hospital in Korhogo to recieve more intensive treatments.