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In Gambia, good nutrition prevents child morbidity and mortality

Sumaila, now 22-months old, is still being treated with ready-to-use-therapeutic-food but his consistent symptoms of diarrhoea and fever have practically vanished.

KUNDAM DEMBA, Gambia, 17 July 2013 - Sumaila Baldeh’s fever was getting worse and he was crying consistently. His 30-year old mother, Maimuna Baldeh, had tried on several occasions to feed him spoonful of locally made herbal concoction, hoping that it would make him feel better. Often, the herbs did not make Sumaila feel better. The infant had not been eating very well since he was 2-months old, unable to ingest enough of his mother’s breast milk or the goat milk or soggy biscuits that constituted his regular diet.

“We took Sumaila to a clinic a few times and each time, the doctor would give us medicines for the diarrhoea or vomiting,” explained Maimuna’s husband, 35-year old Yorro Baldeh, a driver residing with his family in the village of Kundam Demba in Tumani district, Upper River Region of The Gambia. “These medicines worked for some time but Sumaila would get sick again. We learnt that he was severely malnourished last month.”

In many cases, malnutrition in children is a result of combined factors including inadequate feeding with nutritious foods and poor feeding practices and care. Children who are malnourished, especially in remote villages with little access to proper treatment, care and support, are more likely to die from common childhood illnesses. The 2010 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey estimates that 4.2% of children under 5 (17.4%) in The Gambia are moderately underweight and 1 in 5 are severely underweight. But, through the Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) programme, many severely malnourished children like Sumaila all over the Gambia are now benefiting from the required treatment and care for better growth and development.


Sumaila who is accompanied by his father Yorro and his mother Maimuna is no longer the sick child he used to be and has quite a lot of energy, according to his parents.

“About a month ago, the Community Health Nurse came to our village to weigh our children,” said Maimuna, a mother of 3 and a groundnut farmer. “He told us that Sumaila was not eating the right food and had to be enrolled in a programme to help him become stronger and put on weight. They then gave us the foods that we should be feeding him and after about a week, we began to see positive results. He was much livelier and looked much healthier.”

The Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) programme was initiated in 2011 and is implemented by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and the National Nutrition Agency through support from the European Commission and UNICEF. It provides ready-to-use-therapeutic-foods (RUTF) to enrolled children, and treats SAM children with medical complications to save their lives.

Sumaila and 3 other children from Kundam Demba were enrolled in the programme in May 2013. Sumaila, now 22-months old, is still being treated with RUTF and is visibly growing, according to his parents. He is no longer a sickly child and has quite a lot of energy. His consistent symptoms of diarrhoea and fever have practically vanished.

“He is definitely making improvements,” said Momodou Jobateh, the community health nurse monitoring Sumaila. “When he was admitted his weight was 7.4 kg and his height 76 cm. He was already 8.01 kg in weight and 76.3cm in height when he was discharged from the hospital about a week later. We will continue the treatment until he is fully recovered.”

Thanks to the programme, exactly 3,164 children, including Sumaila, have been treated for severe acute malnutrition throughout the country.




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