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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid