Making a difference with timely support and investment – Osman’s story

Reducing malnutrition and child deaths through timely actions

Parents smiling at their 1-year-old son
01 July 2021

Nalerigu, East Mamprusi, NORTHEAST REGION - Sahmed and Bahsira couldn’t help but smile every time they looked at their 1-year-old son Osman. He was looking healthier and stronger every day. Behind their smiles are memories of Osman’s dire condition just two months ago. They were on the verge of losing hope

“When we brought Osman to the hospital, he was very frail, and I’ll admit I was so scared that he may not survive. Even my parents told us that it would be better if he passed on so he would be put out of his misery. He could not eat at all and was looking very thin.”

Osman was admitted to the Baptist Medical Center in Nalerigu in the East Mamprusi district of the North East region in April 2021 and immediately, health and nutrition officials of the hospital started working to bring him back to good health.Upon admission, his mid-upper arm circumference measurement read less than 11.5 centimeters. He was in critical condition.

Undernutrition is still threatening the survival and development of young children in Ghana and accounts for approximately 24% of child deaths and stunts children’s growth and cognitive development. This, coupled with multiple shocks brought on by the COVID-19 crisis worsened the situation. For example, economic difficulties, reduced food supply and spikes in food prices on the market after the lock-down period, threatened to derail progress made to improve nutrition of children.

In addition, the newly created North East region, even before the COVID-19 pandemic, recorded some of the worst indicators for health and nutrition of children in the country.

UNICEF officer checks nutrition supplements before transportation to health center
UNICEF Supply and Procurement Officer, Pharoah Semanhyia checks nutrition supplements before transportation to health center in Gamabaga, Northeast Region.

To address this, UNICEF in partnership with China AID is providing support to the Ghana Health Service to reduce stunting, wasting and severe acute malnutrition in the North East region. With an investment of $1 million, nutrition supplements and supplies such as iron-folic tablets, vitamin A supplements, weighing scales and height boards, ready-to-use therapeutic foods, therapeutic milk and essential medicines have been provided for children and adolescents in the region. 

Through this support, mothers, such as Bahsira, whose children are at risk of severe malnutrition receive counselling from health officials both at the health center and during home visits.

"Now that Osman has been cured and is going home, we have to keep working and monitoring to ensure that he does not relapse. We will be doing this through regular home visits and providing nutrition counseling  to his mother and family on the variety, consistency and combination of foods that will help boost Osman’s growth and development.” Amos Bukari  Nutrition Officer of Baptist Medical Center is one of the officials responsible for the improvement in Osman’s health.

Dr. Abdulai Abukari,  Regional Director for Health Service  in the North East shared his sentiments about the programme. “Thanks to support from China AID, more children, just like Osman are receiving timely and necessary treatment. Malnutrition in children if ignored or not treated will lead to poor academic performance, which in the long run will not help Ghana’s development.

Nurses entering a home for periodic visit
Health workers on a monitoring visit to a mother who child is being treated with therapeutic supplements. ©UNICEF/UN627110/MILLS