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At a glance: Guinea

UNICEF supports Guinea’s health authorities in their fight against child malnutrition

© UNICEF/Guinea/T.Baro
An infant who benefited from care at the therapeutic nutrition unit of the Ratoma Health Community Centre in Conakry, Guinea.

By Michèle Akan Badarou

CONAKRY, Guinea, 18 March 2010 − In the bustling atmosphere of the Therapeutic Nutrition Unit at the Ratoma Health Community Centre, a medical team is examining children who, when they first arrived here, were all suffering from malnutrition.

In the middle of the crowd, Aminata breastfeeds her twins - a boy and a girl. Upon her arrival at the health centre a month earlier, one of the twins, Fatoumata, then eleven months of age, weighed just three kilos.

“My child was just losing weight,” said Aminata. “I didn’t know what to do.”

The little girl was suffering from a candida infection, which prevented her from feeding. “My neighbor advised me to come to the Ratoma Health Centre, which had a good reputation,” said Aminata. 
Vital nutrition assistance

The candida has been cured and the little girl received therapeutic food − a milky groundnut paste enriched with vitamins and minerals. Fatoumata is twelve months old now and weighs nearly five kilograms. She will soon be walking, just like most children her age.

© UNICEF/Guinea/T.Baro
After a month of care at the therapeutic nutrition unit of the Ratoma Health Community Centre, in Guinea, these twins born with a low birth weight are now recovering.

In Guinea, 40 per cent of the children are suffering from chronic malnutrition and 26 per cent from weight deficiency. The political crisis here, coupled with food price increases and the depreciation of the local currency, has hit the country hard. About 70 per cent of the population lives below the international poverty line of $1.25 per day. Health and social services have been weakened, and 2009 marked the return of preventable diseases such as poliomyelitis, measles, and meningitis.

With the support of UNICEF and WHO, a campaign was launched in 2009 targeting more than two million children under the age of five. It consists of the provision of vitamin A supplementation, de-worming medication, insecticide-treated mosquito nets, and vaccinations against measles and polio.

Better prevention and health care

UNICEF supports Guinea’s health authorities in their fight against malnutrition. Nearly 200 health workers have been trained and the Ministry of Health has adopted a new protocol for the care of severe acute malnutrition, which means better prevention and care.
Last year UNICEF and the World Food Programme operated a network of 103 therapeutic feeding centres, which helped nearly 24,000 severely malnourished children recover by providing therapeutic foods, enriched baby cereals and medicine. And with the support of its local non-governmental partner Terre des Hommes, community agents will soon be crossing Conakry to find vulnerable children and refer them to the nearest care centres.



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