Despite international commitment to end hunger once and for all, hundreds of millions of people still lack sufficient access to proper nutrition. The situation is particularly challenging in developing nations, where more than 13 percent of a countries’ total population go hungry.
Food insecurity is driven by various causes; conflict, climate change and slow economies all contribute. The consequences of undernutrition are grim and include impaired growth and development in children. This can lead to poor school performance and loss of productivity, as well as increased risk of nutrition-related chronic diseases and low wages later in life. Perhaps most worryingly, poor nutrition causes 45 percent of all deaths in children under age five.
In Haiti, where nearly 60 percent of the population lives in poverty, food insecurity is a long-standing challenge. Half of all Haitians are undernourished, and 100,000 Haitian children under five years of age suffer from acute malnutrition. Twenty-two percent of children in Haiti are stunted, or irreversibly short for their age.
With funding from the European Union, International Medical Corps provides lifesaving care to Haitian children like nearly three-year-old Rose, who weighed just over 22 pounds when her mother brought her to the health center in the remote mountain village of Foret des Pins.
Rose suffered from repeated fever and diarrhea, and despite her mother’s care and many attempts to get her to eat, Rose completely lacked an appetite. The toddler’s condition was clearly dire, and the medical team immediately admitted her to the center, where she received 24/7 treatment and medical care.
Slowly Rose slowly began to stabilize, much to the relief of her mother, who remained at her daughter’s side throughout treatment. With the goal of preventing malnutrition in the future, Rose’s mother was provided with training on how to keep her daughter healthy, including counselling on proper nutrition for infants and children and the importance of dietary diversity.
After finding her appetite once again and putting on some weight, Rose was finally discharged from inpatient care. Once her mother was provided with instruction on how to give the ready-to-use-therapeutic foods the medical team provided, Rose was able to return home to continue treatment surrounded by her family and community. To ensure Rose’s recovery, her mother brought her to the clinic for regular check-ups to monitor her progress.
Rose continued to improve and was discharged from outpatient treatment after six weeks.
Following her child’s treatment, Rose’s mother decided to join the Mother Club’s program on infant and young child feeding, where parents learn to help prevent, identify and break the cycle of undernourishment in their homes and communities so children can grow into healthy adults. She is also working in her community to raise awareness about undernutrition and assist with malnutrition screening. Training like this has the potential to strengthen an entire community, leaving it less exposed to the perils of malnutrition.
The result? Healthier and happier children like Rose, and a stronger community.