In Sudan, UNICEF is preventing, detecting, and treating malnutrition
Ensuring timely interventions to save the lives of children
In Sudan, malnutrition remains a challenge affecting over three million children. About 650,000 of these are suffering from severe acute malnutrition (SAM), the worst form of malnutrition. Without treatment approximately half of the children suffering from SAM will die.
Following the declining socio-economic situation many families lack sufficient and nutritious food to feed their children.
As part of its health and nutrition programmes, UNICEF has intensified delivery of high impact nutrition interventions to prevent, detect and treat malnutrition across the country. This is how UNICEF and partners are delivering in Sudan.
Mother-support-groups - At the UNICEF-supported Patient Helping Fund Integrated Nutrition facility, 50-year-old Aziza conducts mother-support-groups to educate pregnant women, lactating mothers, and women of childbearing age on good feeding practices for their children. The biweekly sessions that bring together 10 to 15 mothers per session are held at both community and facility level.
Aziza tailors her sessions to 14 messages delivered in Arabic language for better understanding by the mothers, while using training guides with pictures and text. She emphasizes practices and behaviours that mothers need to adopt during the first 1,000 days of a child’s life (from conception to the age of two years) for strong and healthy children. The practices are critical to preventing children from malnutrition.
Food demonstrations: During the sessions, mothers are educated on appropriate dietary practices using readily available food. Various types of foods are displayed, and their benefits explained. Mothers are taught how to mix and cook nutritious porridge and food for the young ones. Exclusive breastfeeding is emphasized especially during the first six months and until the babies are two years. The mothers listen attentively but also ask questions to learn how to keep their babies healthy through proper feeding.
Every opportunity is utilized to screen children early enough to support quick intervention before it is too late. UNICEF supports nutrition screening for children under five years at facility and community level. Nutrition workers trained with UNICEF support move door to door, screening children to identify and refer those that require immediate support before. Using a simple colour coded strip also known as the mid-upper-arm-circumference (MUAC) tape, nutrition workers traverse communities, screening one child at a time.
During the mother-support-group sessions, mother leads use the opportunity to educate mothers on the different colours on the mid-upper-arm-circumference (MUAC) tape and the meaning.
“Red is danger (severe acute malnutrition), yellow is moderate acute malnutrition and green is healthy and safe,” Aziza emphasizes during a session.
The children attending the mother-support group sessions are screened and those registering red and yellow without medical complications are enrolled on the out-patient therapeutic programmes (OTP). Those with medical complications are immediately referred to the nearest stabilization centres for treatment.
At the out-patient therapeutic programme (OTP) clinics, growth monitoring of children is a priority. Are the children behind their growth milestones? The MUAC tape, weighing scale and measurement boards are used to ascertain this. Mothers whose children register green, are applauded and encouraged to continue with the balanced diets.
Fatima Babike, 10 months (L) and Hassan Abdulgasi, 11 months (R), both have a good appetite, enjoy the ready-to-use-therapeutic food (RUTF), a highly nutritious peanut paste after being admitted in the OTP programme. They both have malnutrition without medical complications.
It is feeding time at Elafashier stabilization centre and the children are fed regularly. The highly nutritious therapeutic milk supports the recovery of the many children admitted and battling SAM. From the numbers pinned on the wall, the SAM admissions this year have spiked compared to the same time last year.
Little by little, a mother feeds her son on therapeutic milk at the stabilization centre. It’s been three days since he was admitted with severe acute malnutrition with diarrhea. “There is a big difference since we first arrived,” the mother affirms.
Israa Adam Ateem, nibbles on ready-to-use-therapeutic food (RUTF) and drinks some water. She is recovering well from severe acute malnutrition and the health workers are happy with the progress.
Ten days after admission, little Mehrab can afford a smile. At the stabilization centre, she received treatment for fever, diarrhea, vomiting and oedema. Her hair had turned yellow, and she is severely malnourished. Also, therapeutic milk provided is supporting her recovery and continued breastfeeding.
UNICEF and partners remain on the ground to provide lifesaving support to prevent and protect children from malnutrition through high impact nutrition programmes made possible through the generous support from USAID (Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance), European Union Humanitarian Aid (ECHO) and the United Nations Central Emergency Fund (UN CERF).