|© UNICEF Ethiopia/2008|
|Kimia Gotu came to a therapeutic feeding centre in Eastern Harerghe, Ethiopia, when her child, Destu, became ill.|
By Indrias Getachew
EASTERN HARERGHE, Ethiopia, 9 July 2008 – One month ago, Kimia Gotu, six-months pregnant and a mother of four, and her two-year-old daughter, Destu Omer Hassen, were sharing the grounds of the Baroda therapeutic feeding centre with 75 severely malnourished children.
“I came to this place when my child got sick because we did not have enough food at home,” said Ms. Gotu. “I have come from a village called Nadi, six hours’ walk from here.”
Drought, rising food prices and the lack of resources to respond to the evolving food and nutrition crisis in drought-affected districts of Ethiopia have left 4.6 million people requiring humanitarian assistance. The Government of Ethiopia estimates that at present there are 75,000 children with severe acute malnutrition in drought-affected districts of the country.
“We are farmers. We sowed our seeds and then the rains failed,” Ms. Gotu explained. “This is the first time that my family has experienced anything like this.”
Therapeutic treatment saves lives
A child with severe acute malnutrition faces a serious risk of death but will recover within three to six weeks with proper treatment.
Destu, whose feet, hands and face were swollen with oedema, was diagnosed with severe acute malnutrition. But she is responding well to the treatment she is receiving at the UNICEF-supported Boda centre in the Goro Gutu district of drought-affected Eastern Harerghe. In a few weeks, she should be fully recovered.
|© UNICEF Ethiopia/2008|
|Destu was diagnosed with severe acute malnutrition, and her mother immediately took her to the Baroda therapeutic feeding centre.|
Destu is fortunate. Her mother immediately took her to the therapeutic feeding centre after village health workers told her of its existence. She and the other children at the centre are receiving therapeutic milks F-75 and F-100, as well as read-to-use-therapeutic foods like Plumpy’Nut, supplied with the support of UNICEF.
Children at the centre are being treated following the national protocol on case management for severe acute malnutrition. This approach was adopted and institutionalized by the Ministry of Health and has revolutionized the treatment of malnutrition in Ethiopia, leading to a significant drop in mortality rates for malnourished children.
“Since I have been here, the swelling in Destu’s foot has gone down,” said Ms. Gotu. “I now have faith that she will survive.”
Responding to children’s needs
UNICEF has appealed for $49 million to respond to the nutrition, health, education, water, sanitation and hygiene needs of children and women in drought-affected areas of Ethiopia.
“Children are the first to become weak and die in these circumstances, which is what we are witnessing in hot-spot areas right now,” said UNICEF Representative in Ethiopia Björn Ljungqvist. “But children with severe acute malnutrition do not have to die. We know how to save their lives.”
Together with the Ministry of Health, UNICEF has been training health workers across the country to treat severe malnutrition. Compared to previous drought emergencies, there is much greater capacity in Ethiopia today to respond to the needs of children at risk.