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Ethiopia, 12 August 2011: Government of Japan supports therapeutic feeding to treat malnutrition

© UNICEF Ethiopia/2011/Getachew
Zara Ahmed with her 10-month-old baby Nayle Kelifa at the weekly outpatient therapeutic feeding programme in Belina Arba Health Post, Fedis District, Ethiopia.

By Indrias Getachew

FEDIS DISTRICT, Ethiopia, 12 August 2011 – Zara Ahmed is worried. The youngest of her seven children, 10-month-old Nayle Kelifa, has not been eating well and has lost a lot of weight. Drought in eastern Ethiopia has delayed the harvest of corn, peanuts, cabbage, potatoes and other vegetables that Ms. Ahmed relies on to feed her children.
The family is surviving on what they can buy at the market, but this has not been adequate as the cost of food keeps going up.

A visit to her local health post has confirmed that Nayle is severely malnourished. Nayle is the most recent entrant to the Belina Arba Outpatient Therapeutic Feeding Programme, which is now treating 41 severely malnourished children, up from 13 at the same time last year.

“The situation is different this year,” says Lemlem Worku, a health extension worker assigned to Belina Arba Health Post. “The rains came late. At this time there should be harvests. We wouldn’t have so many children. They would have food to eat.”

Ready-to-use therapeutic food

The Government of Ethiopia estimates that more than 300,000 children will require treatment for severe acute malnutrition in 2011. As the number of children with severe acute malnutrition increases in Fedis and neighbouring districts of East Harerghe Zone in eastern Ethiopia, the zonal health office dispatches boxes of ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF) purchased by UNICEF with support from the Government of Japan.

© UNICEF Ethiopia/2011/Getachew
An aid worker delivers ready-to-use therapeutic food procured with funds from the Government of Japan in Ethiopia's Oromia Region.

A $7.4 million donation from Japan for the management of acute malnutrition is going a long way in Ethiopia. It’s helping improve access to life-saving services in the country’s Afar, Amhara, Oromia, Somali, Benishangul Gumuz, Gambella and Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Regions.

Nayle weighed 4.8 kg on her first visit to the health post and will be discharged from the programme only when she reaches 5.5 kg. She has a good appetite, so her chances of recovery are excellent. Before leaving the health post, Ms. Worku gives the baby’s mother a bottle of amoxicillin antibiotics and a week’s supply of RUTF.

“I was very worried about my daughter,” says Ms. Ahmed. “Today, Lemlem has given me medicine for Nayle and these packets of nutritious food to feed her. I believe these will save my baby.”

‘We will pray for them’

UNICEF has helped Ethiopia increase its national capacity to treat severe acute malnutrition at more than 8,800 sites in drought-affected, food-insecure districts like Fedis. Besides training health extension workers in outpatient therapeutic feeding, UNICEF provides therapeutic food, nutritional supplements, medicines, weighing scales, measuring tapes and other supplies needed for the programme.

The support from the Government of Japan is ensuring that up to 54,000 severely malnourished children will benefit from the timely procurement, distribution and administration of therapeutic food.



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