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

Multimedia Obama, Modi Break Nuclear Deal Deadlock

Impasse over liability issues had been stalling bilateral civilian nuclear cooperation; deal reached at start of US president's three-day visit to India More

WHO's Late Efforts in Tackling Ebola Highlight Need for Reform

Health experts debate measures to reform agency’s response to global public health emergencies in special one-day session on deadly outbreak More

One Tumultuous Year in Power for CAR's President

As sectarian violence raged across Central African Republic, interim President Catherine Samba-Panza has Herculean task: to end civil war and put country back on right track 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.
Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youthi
X
Julie Taboh
January 23, 2015 11:08 PM
Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.
Video

Video Secular, Religious Kurds Face Off in Southeast Turkey

Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast has been rocked by violence between religious and secular Kurds. Dorian Jones reports on the reasons behind the stand-off from the region's main city of Diyarbakir, which suffered the bloodiest fighting.
Video

Video Kenya: Misuse of Antibiotics Leading to Resistance by Immune System

In Kenya, the rise of drug resistant bacteria could reverse the gains made by medical science over diseases that were once treatable. Kenyans could be at risk of fatalities as a result if the power in antibiotics is not preserved. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story from Nairobi.
Video

Video Solar-Powered Plane Getting Ready to Circumnavigate Globe

Pilots of the solar plane that already set records flying without a drop of fuel are close to making their first attempt to fly the craft around the globe. They plan to do it in 25 flying days over a five month period. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video How Experts Decide Ethiopia Has the Best Coffee

Ethiopia’s coffee has been ranked as the best in the world by an international group of coffee connoisseurs. Not surprisingly, coffee is a top export for the country. But at home it is a source of pride. Marthe van der Wolf in Addis Ababa decided to find out what makes the bean and brew so special and how experts make their determinations.
Video

Video Yazidi Refugees at Center of Political Fight Between Turkey, Kurds

The treatment of thousands of Yazidis refugees who fled to Turkey to escape attacks by Islamic State militants has become the center of a dispute between the Turkish government and the country's pro-Kurdish movement. VOA's Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video World’s Richest 1% Forecast to Own More Than Half of Global Wealth

The combined wealth of the world's richest 1 percent will overtake that of the remaining 99 percent at some point in 2016, according to the anti-poverty charity Oxfam. Campaigners are demanding that policymakers take action to address the widening gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid