Nutrition support saves girl’s life in Gambia
WALLYBA KUNDA, Gambia, 17 July 2013 - One-year old Oumou Jawo had been suffering from diarrhoea and occasional vomiting since she was 3-months old but her mother, 25-year old Mariama Baldeh, had never been too worried because the infant would always recover after a day or two. When she was nine-months old, Oumou had a bad case of diarrhoea and bouts of vomiting which did not subside after 3 days. Mariama, frightened, decided to take her to the nearest hospital closest to her village, Wallyba Kunda, situated in Tumani District in The Gambia’s Upper River Region, one of the country’s most impoverished regions which records some of the worst social indicators.
“When I arrived at the hospital, the doctor examined Oumou,” said Mariama, a mother of 4 children. “He used an arm band which showed that my child was red. He told me that this was very serious, that Oumou was severely malnourished and had to be enrolled immediately in a programme that helps such children.”
Half of all children worldwide die from malnutrition or illnesses associated with or exacerbated by malnutrition such as diarrhoea, malaria and pneumonia. According to the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (2010), 1 in 5 children under 5 (17.4%) in The Gambia are moderately underweight and 4.2% are estimated to be severely underweight. Stunting and wasting have increased from 22.4% and 6.5% in 2005 to 23.4% and 9.5% in 2010 (MICS 2005 & 2010). In many cases, malnutrition in children is a result of a combination of several factors including a high disease burden, inadequate feeding with nutritious foods and poor feeding practices and care.
The severe acute malnutrition (SAM) programme, funded by the European Commission through UNICEF and implemented in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and National Nutrition Agency (NaNA), focuses on saving the lives of children under five ensuring that children with severe acute malnutrition receive therapeutic care while those with complications are admitted and treated to avoid mortality. Oumou was among the children admitted at a nutrition centre for treatment.
“Oumou was fed foods that look like porridge and biscuits,” continued Mariama, referring to the BP-100 and Plumpy Nuts provided. “After 9 days, we were discharged but Oumou stayed on the programme. It has been 3 months since then and our CHN usually brings us Oumou’s food supplies and checks on her. He said that very soon, she will no longer need to be on the programme. Praise Allah to hear that!”
Oumou now has strong eating habits and is growing and putting on weight progressively and steadily. She hardly gets diarrhoea these days nor does she get sick often like she used to.
“My family is very grateful to UNICEF and all those who have provided the support to my child,” said Mariama. “The programme definitely saved Oumou’s life and I will advise all mothers out there with sick children to take them to the hospital and not think that the sickness will pass. They could lose their child otherwise. I thank that Almighty that I still have mine.”
Since it was integrated into the national nutrition support programme in 2011, the SAM programme has benefitted over 3,000 children with severe acute malnutrition nationwide, including Oumou Jawo.