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Real lives

Malnutrition takes its toll on Ethiopia’s families

© UNICEF Ethiopia/2003/Getachew
Berhanu Faree is measured at the Fito Ketemuna Supplementary Feeding Center. He is 72.5 centimeters tall and weighs eight kilogrammes.

"I was advised to come here by people from the local government," says
Shureni Gobaro.  She has brought her two-year-old son, Berhanu Faree, to the Fito Ketemuna Supplementary Feeding Center, which operates with UNICEF’s support.

With UNICEF’s help, the Ethiopian government is conducting emergency surveys to identify areas of malnutrition in Sidama Zone, one of the 64 drought-affected woredas (districts) in the Southern Nations and Nationalities and Peoples Regional State. The center is located 40 kilometres from Awassa, the capital.

Sidama Zone is one of the most densely populated areas of Ethiopia. Approximately 300 people share one square kilometer. Shureni and her husband live here and are farmers.

"We grow chat, corn and enset (false banana)," Shureni says. "We also have cattle. However, this year they stopped giving milk when food became scarce as a result of the drought. We don't have milk for the children and all they eat is enset and corn. That is why Berhanu has become like this."

© UNICEF Ethiopia/2003/Getachew
Bernanu with his mother, Shureni Gobaro.

Shared rations

Shureni brings Berhanu to the feeding center every two weeks.  After waiting for his turn Berhanu is weighed and measured by the feeding center staff to monitor his progress.

Shureni then goes to the wooden shed where the center's staff prepares UNIMIX, a fortified blend of corn, soya beans, sugar and oil. Each child receives a five-kilogramme ration of this blend every fortnight until he or she reaches a healthy weight-to-height ratio.

A supplementary ration of 500 kilocalories (Kcal) should be sufficient for each child. Recognizing that food is shared with the family, however, the staff increases the ration to 1,600 Kcal per UNICEF recommendations.

Shureni has seven children. However, Berhanu is the only one who has been given a card to receive supplementary feeding. "I will share Berhanu's ration with the other small children at home," Shureni says wearily when asked if the ration is sufficient. "It is not enough for us."



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