News / Health

UNICEF Treats Record Number of Sahel Children for Malnutrition

Maryam Sy comforts her 2-year-old son Aliou Seyni Diallo, the youngest of nine, after a neighbor gave him dry couscous to stop him from crying with hunger, May 1, 2012.
Maryam Sy comforts her 2-year-old son Aliou Seyni Diallo, the youngest of nine, after a neighbor gave him dry couscous to stop him from crying with hunger, May 1, 2012.
Jennifer Lazuta
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) says that aid agencies treated a record number of children in the Sahel region of West Africa for life-threatening severe acute malnutrition this year. Though many lives were saved, experts say that episodes of severe acute malnutrition in children have irreversible, life-long impacts on health, which are further compounded by widespread chronic malnutrition in the region.
 
An estimated 1.1 million children living in Africa’s Sahel region suffered from severe acute malnutrition in 2012 as erratic rainfall and severe food shortages aggravated already high rates of chronic malnutrition.
 
UNICEF reports that approximately 850,000 of these children will have received emergency food aid and other medical treatment by the end of the year.

“We’ve done a big efforts, all of us, and this is what we have achieved. Which of course is big, but of course that also means some children, unfortunately, not been given treatment,” said UNICEF’s acting regional director, Manuel Fontaine.

UNICEF says undernourishment contributes to more than half of child deaths in the Sahel. Malnutrition makes a child more vulnerable to otherwise treatable illnesses like diarrhea or malaria.
 
UNICEF says without proper treatment, a child with severe acute malnutrition is nine times more likely to die than a well-nourished child.
 
Real success, Fontaine said, would be not having to treat these children at all.

“Those children, basically, shouldn’t have been there in the first place and we need to be able to assist them so that they don’t have to come through that point of being severely malnourished,” he said.
 
Felicite Tchibindat, the regional nutrition advisor for UNICEF, said that preventing malnutrition is particularly crucial during the first two years of life. 

“You see children that are malnourished at an early age have a high risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and all that kind. You have the brain damage, which is irreversible, because at that time you need quality nutrients, and care, which they don’t have," she explained. "In the long run, they have less in terms of years of schooling, sometimes 1.5 years less. Also, there is an impact on their IQ.”
 
Stunted growth due to malnutrition is also a major problem.
 
A 2012 study by World Vision and Save the Children found that an average two-and-a-half-year-old girl in Niger is 8.5 cm shorter than the average height for that age. The study said that many stunted children will never regain the lost height or weight, and that the effects of malnutrition can pass to the next generation with stunted mothers more likely to have low-birth-weight babies.
 
Tchibindat says malnutrition has an economic impact as well. 

“The World Bank has calculated that two to three percent of the GDP is lost each year because nothing is done in preventing malnutrition and that is quite a lot. And if we’re talking about the world, which is constrained by the resources … And they calculated in some countries that when the child was malnourished at an early age…at the adult age they have a 20 to 40 percent less earning [potential],” she said.
 
Prevention is also less expensive. The U.N. has found that to treat a child with severe acute malnutrition costs between $80 and $120, while preventative measures can cost as little as $30 per child.
 
“It’s becoming quite costly and people really need to address that. And the way of addressing it is that you have to address that before the child reaches the age of two. After that, it’s too late. It’s a very short window of opportunity. But that can be very high cost effective,” Tchibindat said.
 
UNICEF said malnutrition is not just about not getting enough food. It’s also about not getting the right food, particularly during those first two years.
 
UNICEF is working to promote good practices, such as exclusive breastfeeding, and sanitation efforts to ensure clean drinking water, as well as education to teach parents the importance of feeding their children protein and vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables.

You May Like

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

China to Open Stock Markets to Pension Funds

In unprecedented move, government to soon allow local pension funds to invest up to $94 billion in domestic shares More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs