News / Africa

Malnutrition Affects Mothers and Children in Ethiopia’s Coffee Growing Region

In the developing world, malnourishment is a leading cause of death for children under five years of age

Malnourished child at Dill Hospital, southern Ethiopia
Malnourished child at Dill Hospital, southern Ethiopia

Coffee farmers in the Gedeo district of southern Ethiopia grow the Yirgachefe, a highly prized brand within the coffee industry and among connoisseurs. These farmers usually do better than those in the rest of Ethiopia. But recent growing seasons have brought them nothing but despair.

Drought prevented the plants from producing beans, while the global economic downturn lead to a drop in the price of coffee fell on the global market. The combined effect has left many hungry.

Some of those affected include malnourished children at the Dilla Hospital feeding center.

Health worker Mahammed Kedir, who is on a routine check at Dilla, says children here spend a lot of time at home malnourished before they are brought for help.

HIV and TB compound malnutrition problems

"This child has been in a feeding center with a cough for one month. There is no improvement, no weight gain, no return of appetite,” he says. “This is most likely related to TB."

Mahammed is talking about a two-year-old orphan living with her aunt. It's the same for a three-year-old child who came to the hospital with her mother.  Both the mother and the child are infected with HIV, and her husband is dead.

"She was admitted to the Gedeb feeding center," Mahammed says. They referred her to the hospital with a cough for about more than a month now. We have screened her for HIV and TB, and the tests were positive."

It’s not unusual for malnourished children with weakened immune systems to also have other diseases, including tuberculosis and HIV. Both may be passed on by their parents.

Another child with tuberculosis at the hospital is four-year-old Kefyalew. He does not have an adult with him. His 13-year-old brother Markos takes care of him. Markos and his three siblings are orphans. Their mother, who died of tuberculosis, told him that his father was killed by witchcraft.

Markos’s brother is severely malnourished, with a bulging stomach, bare skull and emaciated body. Markos says Kefyalew started losing his appetite after his mother died a year and half ago.

Near them, three other children are sleeping in a row of hospital beds. All of them are malnourished.

Effects of malnutrition

Malnutrition is a leading cause of death for children under five years of age. It makes them more vulnerable to infectious diseases including TB, and slows their recovery. Those who suffer from malnutrition may never attain maximum physical and mental potential. They may also suffer from stunted growth, and be physically weak and mentally slow.

Kefyalew, 3, shows his lunch (right) Markos Ayele, 13, oldest of four orphans
Kefyalew, 3, shows his lunch (right) Markos Ayele, 13, oldest of four orphans

Malnutrition can also be caused by birth spacing, the frequency between pregnancies. Women’s bodies regain lost nutrients between pregnancies; health specialists say the shorter the interval, the greater the likelihood of stunting and underweight babies.

Malnourishment also impacts pregnant women. The condition keeps blood from clotting and can lead to hemorrhaging, obstructed labor and death for either mother or child. It increases chances of premature or low-birth-weight and anemia. Also, undernourishment can affect the quality of breast milk, which draws proteins and other nutrients from the mother.

"I thought he was suffering from evil eye"

Some parents fail to realize their children are suffering from a lack of nutrients.

Almaz Buchie and her son Berhanu are also at the Dilla hospital feeding center.

"I took my son to a clinic near my home village. They said he is severely malnourished, and I need to take him to a feeding center. I noticed he was losing weight. But I thought he was suffering from evil eye. I did not know a food shortage was the problem," Almaz says.

Both mother and child are HIV-positive
Both mother and child are HIV-positive

The evil eye has nothing to do with it. Four-year-old Berhanu is malnourished and looks like a ten-month-old baby. His bones are tiny and he cannot walk. He crawls from his small hospital bed to his mother's bosom, but there's no milk.

It’s no help that Almaz and her husband are the poorest of the poor in her village. They used to work in other farmers’ fields as daily laborers. But now even the farmers can not even feed themselves. Almaz said times are tough.

"I have three more kids back home. They are all underweight but not as severely as this one. I don't have the means to feed them, and my husband is not working right now," she says.

Over the past year -- for the first time in decades – farmers in Gedeo district have been receiving food aid.

Now Gedeo is green and the rainy season has come. Hopes are high for the next cropping season. But farmers say there is no guarantee the rain fall will be consistent.

This is part 5 of our 15 part series, A Healthy Start: On the Frontlines of Maternal and Infant Care in Africa

« Prev: Pregnancy Spacing Series Index Next: Birth Attendants »

You May Like

Missouri Town Braces for Possible Racial Unrest

Situation in Ferguson hinges on whether white police officer will be indicted for August shooting death of unarmed black teen; decision could come Monday More

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of 1930s Deadly Famine

President Poroshenko compares Soviet-era ‘genocide’ to current tactics of pro-Russia rebels in Ukraine's east More

S. Philippines Convictions Elusive 5 Years After Election-related Killings

Officials vowed to deliver justice as the nation marked the anniversary of the country's worst political massacre that left 58 dead, more than half media More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid