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

    Hope Remains for Rio Olympic Games, Despite Woes

    Facing a host of problems, Rio prepares for holding the games but experts say some risks, like Zika, may not be as grave as initially thought

    IS Use of Social Media to Recruit, Radicalize Still a Top Threat to US

    Despite military gains against IS in Iraq and Syria, their internet propaganda still commands an audience; US officials see 'the most complex challenge that the federal government and industry face'

    ‘Time Is Now’ to Save Africa’s Animals From Poachers, Activist Says

    During Zimbabwe visit, African Wildlife Foundation President Kaddu Sebunya says poaching hurts Africa as slave trade once did

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolatei
    X
    July 29, 2016 4:02 PM
    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolate

    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Tesla Opens Battery-Producing Gigafactory

    Two years after starting to produce electric cars, U.S. car maker Tesla Motors has opened the first part of its huge battery manufacturing plant, which will eventually cover more than a square kilometer. Situated close to Reno, Nevada, the so-called Gigafactory will eventually produce more lithium-ion batteries than were made worldwide in 2013. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Polio-affected Afghan Student Fulfilling Her Dreams in America

    Afghanistan is one of only two countries in the world where children still get infected by polio. The other is Pakistan. Mahbooba Akhtarzada who is from Afghanistan, was disabled by polio, but has managed to overcome the obstacles caused by this crippling disease. VOA's Zheela Nasari caught up with Akhtarzada and brings us this report narrated by Bronwyn Benito.
    Video

    Video Hillary Clinton Promises to Build a 'Better Tomorrow'

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton urged voters Thursday not to give in to the politics of fear. She vowed to unite the country and move it forward if elected in November. Clinton formally accepted the Democratic Party's nomination at its national convention in Philadelphia. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more.
    Video

    Video Trump Tones Down Praise for Russia

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is toning down his compliments for Russia and Vladimir Putin as such rhetoric got him in trouble recently. After calling on Russia to find 30.000 missing emails from rival Hillary Clinton, Trump told reporters he doesn't know Putin and never called him a great leader, just one who's better than President Barack Obama. Putin has welcomed Trump's overtures, but, as Zlatica Hoke reports, ordinary Russians say they are not putting much faith in Trump.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora