“My other children were able to walk when they were 8 months old, but not Ereta,” said Zaïnabou Mamataya. At 8 months, Ereta weighed only 2.6 kg and was admitted to hospital in Nokou, Western Chad’s Kanem Region.
According to UNICEF, the Kanem region in Chad has been affected by the food and nutrition crisis afflicting Africa’s Sahel area. Since the beginning of 2012, with poor rains continuing to affect agricultural output, the nutrition situation has been deteriorating in Chad. This is devastating for thousands like Ereta. Food is the most basic need for human survival, and a food crisis in the early stages of child development can lead to serious complications including stunted growth, poor mental health and much more. UNICEF reports that an estimated 127,000 children in Chad will be at risk of severe acute malnutrition, a deadly condition, this year. The organization is now increasing its support to hospitals and health centers in the Kanem region, providing them with the supplies to treat malnutrition.
UNICEF is also working on prevention, which is important. As public health professionals, our goal is to tackle the underlying causes of malnutrition. Roger Sodjinou, UNICEF Chad Nutrition Officer, states “people have an unbalanced diet, mainly based on cereal. Mothers don’t think of practicing exclusive maternal breastfeeding.” It is not surprising because Chad has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world: only 3 in every 100 women exclusively breastfeed their babies. Breastfeeding is proven to be most beneficial for babies and this poses a public health concern in Chad. UNICEF reports that an estimated 13 percent of all deaths among children under age 5 could be prevented with breastfeeding. In addition, many children in Chad are fed unsafe water that can cause diarrhea and other illnesses.
In order to work toward a healthier future, raising awareness about the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding should be continued in Chad. Despite poor rains in Chad, the incidence of the nutrition crisis can reduce if breastfeeding rates increase. As the quote reads: “small change produces big impact.”
Culled from UNICEF