In Madagascar, a nutrition crisis affects children in regions vulnerable to climatic hazards
As the season of food scarcity approaches in the south and southeast, UNICEF and partners are stepping up their work to treat malnourished children.
Charlotte Razanadrasoa is a single mother. She lives in a small village in the south-east of Madagascar with her three children: Zeriko, Elna and their elder sister Eliane.
Zeriko (centre), 9 months, and Elna are twins. Eliane plays with them at home when their mother is busy preparing lunch.
The family visits the Tsiatosika health center which is a two-hour walk from their house to monitor Zeriko's health. “I take him to the health workers because I am worried when I see him very thin,” says Charlotte.
The circumference of his arm, which is in the red zone, indicates that Zeriko is suffering from severe acute malnutrition.
Zeriko is treated with a therapeutic food, PlumpyNut, and medical support by UNICEF, to help him gain weight and restore his health.
Until he's well again, the family will have to return to the clinic every week for his weight and health to be monitored and receive therapeutic food. Parents also receive nutrition counselling.
This is a region often hit by cyclones, which affects harvests. Food prices are too high for many. “We are trying to survive and meet our needs, but this is not easy because of the poor harvest,” says Charlotte.
According to a recent survey, 115,000 children in the southeastern Madagascar need treatment for acute malnutrition.
In southern Madagascar, 340,000 children are believed to be in the same situation due to chronic drought that the area has been facing for decades. In the village of Ampotaka UNICEF built an artificial aquifer to allow villagers to store water supplied by a dam. But it's only full after the rains.
Parents like Fenosoa, 35, are trained to screen their children for malnutrition using the mid-upper arm circumference measure (MUAC) to assess the thinness of their children. If their child's measurement is in the red, they take them to a health centre. “I am happy to see that my son Tovonaze is not malnourished because he is on green zone,” says Fenosoa.
Francis (six months) was hospitalized in the town of Betioky due to complications caused by severe acute malnutrition. His mother, Tsovaraza, gives him therapeutic milk to help him recover.
In the most remote areas, mobile teams come to treat malnutrition and vaccinate children, to leave no one behind.
“The presence of these mobile teams is a great help to the people because it saves them walking many kilometers from their villages,” says Christine Rakotoson, health worker in the village of Belaza.
Sitraka Randrembason, a UNICEF nutrition officer, teaching a young mother how to detect malnutrition in her child by using the mid-upper arm circumference measure (MUAC) tape. As the lean season approaches, a time of growing food insecurity, UNICEF and its partners are stepping up efforts to make nutrition and health supplies available.
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UNICEF extends its heartfelt gratitude to USAID, CERF, ECHO, BHA, KFW, FCDO, Government of Japan, Government of Norway, Japanese Natcom, German NatCom/Findel, US NatCom/Zonta, Dutch NatCom, and French NatCom for their generous support.