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

ASEAN Ministers to Push for S. China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' More

Puerto Rico Defaults on $58M Debt Payment

Payment was due Saturday, default is first in country's 117 years as a United States possession More

Turkish Public Fears Jihadists More Than Kurds

Turkey facing twin threats of terrorism by Islamic State and PKK Kurdish separatists, says President Erdogan’s ruling AK Party 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.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs