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Preventing, detecting and healing malnutrition

© UNICEF Mali / 2013 / Cao

DOMBILA, 25 October 2013 – As a direct result of inadequate nutrition, children in Mali suffer from the effects of malnutrition. The European Commission's Directorate General for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO) and UNICEF work hand-in-hand to address this issue. Oumou, 9 months, has been detected as a malnourished child in a village, is now on her way to recovery.

This morning, a row of women with children in their arms are queuing at Dombila primary school, located on the outskirts of the town of Kati. Among them Djenaba Barry carries her nine month old daughter Oumou. Djenaba left Bandjougoubougou village after community volunteers informed her that amalnutrition screening activity would be conducted today.

Theophane, a Nutrition Specialist who works for UNICEF, supervises an ECHO-funded project that is implemented by the NGO International Rescuee Committee. Theophane often lends a hand during the supervisory visits. He checks the nutritional status of each child by measuring the mid-upper arm circumference, using a tape called the Shakir Strip. The tape is divided into three zones: the green zone (greater than or equal to 125mm), which indicates that the child is malnourished, the yellow zone (between 125 and 115mm), which indicates a moderate acute malnutrition and the red zone (less than 115mm), which reveals severe acute malnutrition and the need to provide emergency nutritional and medical care.

Djenaba timidly approached Theophane with Oumou in her arms. Theophane measured her arm -- the yellow color indicated that Oumou suffered from moderate acute malnutrition. Theophane then measured Oumou’s weight and size to get additional information on her nutritional status to better track Oumou’s progress in the process of recovery.
With this diagnosis, Oumou can be treated at home and with regular visits to the community health center. Djenaba receives her first weekly ration of ready to use therapeutic food that will ‘complete’ (from a nutritional point of view) family meals for her daughter. She will then go to the community health center every week where she will receive another ration until Oumou is totally recovered.

"What we cultivate is not enough"

On her way back home, Djenaba explains that her husband farms millet and peanuts. "We eat what we grow. Sometimes when there is more, we sell but this happens very rarely. What we grow is not enough to feed us." Djenaba mainly deals with domestic tasks. She often cooks the rice and millet and sometimes she adds some smoked fish in the meals "but not often," she says, "not every day."

In front of his house, there is a view on the fields. A few chickens wander around. "Eggs? No, we do not eat eggs, we sell them on the market to buy other things or we keep them to get other chickens."

Eggs, milk, grains. All of this food is available. If it is used properly, it can help to improve ensure children get the nutrients they need to grow. The ECHO-UNICEF project in Dombila organizes nutritional demonstrations, such as the presentation of recipes using local products to prevent malnutrition.

© UNICEF Mali / 2013 / Cao

This morning, after the screening, Djenaba joined the women who gathered around a large pot which balanced on three bricks where a fire was burning. Some women demonstrated how to prepare dishes with high nutritional value. The key is to get the right combination of food with fat, carbohydrates, protein and essential nutrients for a balanced diet. In the evening, everyone will be invited to enjoy a shared meal.

This particular ECHO-UNICEF partnership makes a difference for 32,500 children under five suffering from acute malnutrition in 2013 alone. Children are identified at community screenings to meet their immediate needs in health and nutrition.



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