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Guinea: the weight of the crisis on vulnerable children

Conakry, Guinea, 29 February 2010 - Thursday, a day of consultations at the therapeutic nutrition Unit of the Ratoma Health Community Center , a working-class district in Conakry , the Guinean capital.

In a rustling atmosphere filled with the conversations of mothers and the cries of babies, the medical team, composed essentially of women in white blouses, examines the children.

On a table, a baby-scale, forms and manuals the nurses consult in order to set up the medical records.

Right in the middle of the crowd, a mother is breastfeeding a child at each breast: they are her twins, a boy and a girl.

Kiera, the head nurse approaches her, a smile on her lips: upon her arrival at the health center a month earlier, the little Fatoumata then eleven months of age, only weighed three kilos.

 Knowing in order to save

"My child was just losing weight, narrates the mother, Aminata. I didn’t know what to do".

The little girl was suffering from Candida which infested the mucous membrane of her mouth and was preventing her from feeding.

"My neighbor advised me to come to the Ratoma Health Center, which had a good reputation."
 
The Candida has been cured and the little girl received therapeutic foods, some milky groundnut paste enriched with vitamins and mineral salts.

Kiera shows the growth curve of the little girl getting back again on the increase, finally.

Fatoumata, twelve months old now, is weighing 4kg 900. If she’s sickly again, with a good medical follow-up, she could soon get to walking, just like children of her age.

In Guinea, 40% of the children are suffering from chronic malnutrition and 26% from weight deficiency.

The political crisis, coupled up with the price shoot-up of food commodities and the depreciation of the local currency, has brought about a considerable deterioration in the purchasing power of the population, over half of which live with less than a dollar per day.

The health and social services have been weakened, and the year 2009 marked the return of childhood diseases such as poliomyelitis (about thirty cases), measles (nearly 1 000 cases), or meningitis (147 cases counted).

Maintaining the health of children

With the support of UNICEF and WHO, a vast campaign was launched in 2009 for over two million children under the age of five: administration of vitamin A, worm disinfectants, distribution of dipped mosquito-nets, plus vaccination against measles and polio.

A fresh anti-polio vaccination campaign has been planned for March.

UNICEF supports the health authorities in their fight against malnutrition and the care of cases. Nearly two hundred social workers have been trained and the Ministry of Health has adopted a new protocol in the care of severe acute malnutrition, thus enabling a better prevention and a better care of cases.

UNICEF and the WFP provides the 103 National Therapeutic and ambulatory Centers which catered for the 23 000 severely malnourished children in 2009 with Instant therapeutic foods (ITF), with enriched baby cereals and medicines.

In the framework of a partnership with the Faculty of Medicine, the students are trained in nutrition.

Finally, with the support of "Terre des Hommes," community agents will soon be criss-crossing all over Conakry and its outskirts in order to detect the vulnerable children in the homes and to refer them to the nearest care centers.

By Michèle Akan Badarou

 

 
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