Guinea: twice a survivor - the story of baby Aboubacar
Conakry, Guinea, 12 October 2009 - The lively eyes of baby Aboubacar eagerly follow the smooth gestures of Ansoumane Camara, a voluntary social worker at the nutritional and therapeutic centre of Kissidougou hospital, in Guinea.
Judging by Aboubacar's little round cheeks, soft skin and pearl necklace, one could think he is no older than four months.
However, he is past 10 months and had to overcome a very serious nutrition problem before being able to smile again.
The regions of Haute Guinée and Guinée Forestière, where baby Aboubacar lives, currently fight high malnutrition rates that surpass 10 per cent.
Since three months of age, little Aboubacar has been a regular patient at the nutritional center in Kissidougou, based 600 km from Guinea's capital city Conakry.
For a while, Aboubacar wasn't able to breastfeed and refused any artificial milk.
Aboubacar's birth was quite traumatizing, with him being the only survivor among his triplet brothers, who died in birth together with his mother.
Recovering from malnutrition
"I weighed him and I measured his skull and I remarked that the baby was severely suffering from malnutrition. I had to react and as fast as possible," he said.
Camara is a long-time collaborator of the UNICEF supported NGO "Aide Contre la Faim" and knew what to do in such a situation.
A malnourished baby who is under six months cannot be fed plumpy’nut biscuits but rather liquid four times a day.
Her smile shows two decayed tooth, but she nonetheless thanks Camara for the results obtained after six months of intensive and regular nutrition care.
A heavy toll to malnutrition
Struggling against these problems has to be a priority in the country if it aims to reduce child mortality - currently at 163 for 1,000 living births.
UNICEF's nutrition programme in Guinea aims to eliminate insufficiencies in micro-nutriments (Iodine and Vitamin A) and to reduce by 15 per cent the levels of iron insufficiency among under-five-year-olds.
Exclusive breastfeeding is equally promoted in the health centers which are regularly visited by community agents.
However, a lot remains to be done to safeguard children's health.
By Michele Akan Badarou