According to UNICEF’s estimates, 127,000 children will be at risk of severe acute malnutrition, a deadly condition, in Chad this year, part of the broader food and nutrition crisis afflicting the Sahel region of Africa. Report by Héloïse Vilain.
“Severe acute malnutrition is directly related to mortality. This means that if we don’t care, these children they will die,” said UNICEF Chad Nutrition Officer Roger Sodjinou.
In early April, Chad entered the ‘lean season’, a perio d when children are at heightened risk of malnutrition. But a single nutritional supplement, Plumpy’Doz, could help affected children avoid malnutrition.
UNICEF is supporting the Government of Chad’s efforts to fight child malnutrition. In April, UNICEF launched an extensive programme to distribute Plumpy’Doz to 200,000 children between 6 and 23 months of age. It is UNICEF’s largest-ever operation to prevent malnutrition in Chad, and will last three months, from April to June 2012.
UNICEF will also take this opportunity to distribute soap to every family and to provide deworming medicine and vitamin A to children.
As part of this operation, UNICEF is working closely with the Ministry of Public Health to train health officials. “This will help us to prevent and reduce malnutrition, which rate is at a very high level,” explained Abakar Mallaye, a newly trained health worker and team leader for nutrient supplement distribution.
A logistical challenge
This operation is a real logistical challenge, with hundreds of distribution sites. UNICEF has provided seven storage warehouses to aid the programme’s implementation.
Before taking action, teams must identify the target villages, some of which are hundreds of kilometers from the nearest distribution site. They will encounter other challenges, as well, including heat, sand and unmarked trails. “Villages where we are going to are really inaccessible, taking into account the risks for vehicles getting blocked with sand or stuck in the mud. There is no trail, so it is really hard,” said Mr. Mallaye.
Despite some problems on the road, Mr. Mallaye’s team has begun the timely distribution of nutrient supplements.
UNICEF – which also ensures the supply of ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF), therapeutic milks and essential medicines to treat children suffering from severe malnutrition – is committed to preventing further hardship for malnourished and vulnerable children in Chad.