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At a glance: Haiti

Basketball stars visit UNICEF-supported malnutrition treatment centre in Haiti

By Douglas Armour

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, 14 June 2011 – UNICEF Haiti hosted National Basketball Association (NBA) Star and Sacramento Kings’ centre Samuel Dalembert and Nykesha Sales, a six-time Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) All-Star, in a visit to a malnutrition treatment centre in a hospital still recovering from the January 2010 earthquake.

VIDEO: 14 June 2011 - UNICEF reports on the visit of basketball stars Samuel Dalembert and Nykesha Sales to a hospital nutrition programme in Haiti.  Watch in RealPlayer


"We've been wanting to make a trip like this for a while, to bring players here to see the situation so we can organize programmes here," said Mr. Dalembert, who left Haiti at the age of 13 and has played in the NBA for ten years.

Preventing malnutrition

The University Hospital of Haiti, the largest in this Caribbean country, was severely damaged by the earthquake. Much of its physical infrastructure was destroyed, including the Department of Pediatrics and Nutritional Stabilization Unit, which cares for malnourished children.

© UNICEF Haiti/2011/Casares
Basketball stars Nykesha Sales and Samuel Dalembert visit the University Hospital of Haiti in Port-au-Prince to see UNICEF-supported rebuilding and nutrition programmes. Malnutrition is the leading cause of death among children under the age of five in Haiti.

Immediately following the earthquake, UNICEF helped establish a temporary Nutritional Stabilization Unit with 10 beds. More than 450 children have been treated at the unit since.

“Malnutrition is the number one cause of death among children under five in Haiti and other developing countries,” said UNICEF Representative in Haiti Francoise Gruloos-Ackermans. “There has been great progress made in addressing malnutrition in Haiti through prevention and response activities. But chronic malnutrition remains a silent killer for one in three children under five years of age in Haiti, particularly in remote and under-serviced communities.”

More than 2 per cent of Haitian children have suffered from severe acute malnutrition at least once in their lives. Among malnutrition types, severe acute malnutrition has the highest risk of death. A child who has suffered from and survives the condition risks permanent physical and mental affects, especially if malnutrition occurs in the child’s first two years.

© UNICEF Haiti/2011/Casares
Samuel Dalembert witnesses the efforts being made to tackle malnutrition in Haiti. Following last year's earthquake, UNICEF helped establish a temporary Nutritional Stabilization Unit.

New facilities

UNICEF – in collaboration with the nutrition department of the Ministry of Public Health and Population – is working with partners Concern and the hospital directorate to construct semi-permanent Nutrition Stabilization Unit structures. The recently inaugurated facility can accommodate 20 beds and is fully equipped to treat children with severe malnutrition and related medical complications.

During their visit to the nutrition unit, Mr. Dalembert and Ms. Sales met with children and their families, and staff from Concern and the hospital. The sports envoys also met with UNICEF nutrition specialists who shared information on UNICEF’s response to the ongoing challenges facing Haiti’s children.



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