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Madagascar, March 2017: Mobile nutrition teams key to reaching the unreached

© UNICEFMadagascar/2017/Chamois
In Amboro, Nandrianina from the mobile nutrition team screens a child for malnutrition using a color-coded measuring tape

AMBORO, Ambovombe District, Androy Region, March 2017 – It is two in the afternoon and the heat is at its height, burning the scarce crops and sandy roads. Not many cattle can be seen around as many of them have been sold by habitants to buy food.

Ambovombe District has been blighted by severe drought since 2015. For the population, mostly rural and dependent upon rain-fed agriculture, this is the third consecutive year they have seen little rain. What remains to be eaten is a bit of cassava and fruits from cactus. If the rain finally comes, people hope to harvest some maize, sweet potatoes and cassava.
 

Mobile nutrition teams provide some hope

Despite the late arrival of the nutrition team in Amboro, due to a mechanical problem encountered on the dilapidated road, a dozen of mothers and their children are patiently waiting in the shadow of a tree.

“Even if we are five hours late, it was not possible for us not to come,” says Vony, one of the three members of the mobile nutrition team. “Many children are severely malnourished and they need to receive treatment,” she adds. “Their lives depend on us”.

The closest health centre is three hours’ walking distance, and the team brings access to nutrition services to thousands of children at risk of malnutrition.

Soon after their arrival, the team starts screening all children under five years old using a tape to measure their middle-upper arm circumference. If the color band reaches only the red zone (less than 11.5 cm), the child is severely malnourished and admitted in the therapeutic feeding program. The team also checks weight and height of children to further assess nutritional condition; children with medical complications are referred to the closest health centre for further investigation and care

When the measuring tape reaches the yellow zone (between 11.5 and 12.5 cm), the child is moderately malnourished and admitted to the supplementary feeding site supported by the World Food Programme (WFP) and located next to the tree where mothers are waiting. “Today, out of the twelve children screened, we have identified five new moderately malnourished children,” says Nandrianina, one of the other team members.
 

Mobile treatment of malnutrition

Ravo, 30, walked the short distance to the mobile nutrition team with her eight month-old child Lamiaze and three siblings; her two older children stayed at home. One week before, Lamiaze had been assessed and diagnosed with severe acute malnutrition. This is the second time her mother has brought him back for follow-up treatment. “He had a cough and diarrhoea,” Ravo explains. “I bring him here and they give him Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food and antibiotics. They also check his weight and give me advice.”

For Vony, this is an all too familiar story. Acknowledging the dozen women and children gathered around her, she sighs. “In the two first weeks of operation, we have covered nine remote locations and admitted 31 severely malnourished children in the program. Another 180 severe moderate cases were referred to the supplementary feeding programme,” she explains. “We are expecting to see many more if the situation doesn’t improve.” Lamiaze’s condition is rapidly improving and Ravo has faith in the treatment he is receiving. “Previously, we didn't have access to modern medicine,” she laments. “Now that he is receiving this treatment, we have seen great improvement in his health.”

Ravo and Lamiaze will return to the mobile nutrition team again next week and will continue to do so until he is back to full health.

UNICEF-Madagascar supports the Government’s National Nutrition Office through financial and technical assistance in deploying vehicles and health professionals, monitoring, assuring quality and providing essential drugs and nutrition supplies.

Thanks to the Department for International Development (DFID) of the United Kingdom, three mobile nutrition teams have been deployed in the district of Ambovombe, covering 32 sites and a population of over 10,000 children under five years old.

 

 
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