In Madagascar, families struggle to survive in drought-hit south
UNICEF, with support from USAID, is working to support thousands of severely malnourished children
Anjaramee, four years old, on the right of her mother Maho, lives with her nine brothers and sisters in the rural commune of Maroalipoty in the south of Madagascar. She suffers from severe acute malnutrition or wasting caused by lack of adequate food and drinking water.
This region of Madagascar is affected by drought caused by low rainfall and aggravated by the El niño phenomenon. In addition, the south wind called "Tiomena" has ravaged agriculture in this part of the island.
Maho has seen her cassava plantation destroyed by this mixture of wind and sand. "There hasn't been a harvest for a year and we have almost nothing to eat," says Maho, who is pregnant.
The family has only a small amount of rice to eat. Even though they share what little they have, the family meal is limited to once a day, which is not adequate for the physical and mental development of the children.
Anjaramee's condition is also the consequence of drinking unsafe water, which is one of the main factors causing diarrhea and malnutrition.
The family must walk seven kilometres from the village to fetch water that Maho sometimes sells to people who cannot come to the well.
Like Maho, the majority of the population of Maroalipoty gets its water from this well because the price of a 20-liter water container varies from 500 ariary to 2,000 ariary ($ 0.10-0.50) – a sum that the villagers cannot afford to pay except in cases of vital need.
People living in other communities dig large holes to find water, but the water is dirty and the salinity makes it hard to drink.
Maho takes her daughter Anjaramee every week to the health centre in Maroalipoty to follow up on her treatment for malnutrition. Screening and treatment of severe acute malnutrition takes place every Wednesday. The day begins with an awareness-raising session on good nutrition practices by health and community workers.
Children like Anjaramee are then weighed and measured so that health care staff can monitor their nutritional status and take appropriate action.
Thanks to funding from USAID and support from UNICEF, Anjaramee is receiving treatment with ready-to-use therapeutic foods. "These should improve her condition if she finishes the rations I prescribed,” says Myriam, head of the health centre. “Since she has no complications, she can continue to be treated as an outpatient.”
For cases with medical complications, children are admitted to hospital in the regional capital of Ambovombe for more intensive treatment.
Therapeutic milk is provided to them during the treatment. Vaha Anakivoe, a volunteer nurse at the hospital, ensures each patient follows the treatment.
Thanks to this humanitarian assistance, thousands of children in the south of Madagascar are recovering from what can be a life-threatening illness.
Maho and her daughter Anjaramee will continue to go to the health centre each week until her condition improves and she reaches a healthy weight.