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All Hands On Deck To Battle Malnutrition

They say many hands make light work. And this is definitely true when tackling malnutrition. In Kudang, in The Gambia’s Central River Region, Community Health Nurses, mothers, fathers and grandmothers play a vital role in supporting the World Food Programme’s nutrition initiatives for malnourished children under 5. With so many people on board, it’s little surprise that the results are impressive. Here is one success story.

Kudang, The Gambia – When Amadou Sanyang brought his 18-month-old daughter, Isatou, to Kudang during a distribution of WFP’s Super Cereal Plus (SC+), the measurement of her upper arm showed that she was suffering from moderate acute malnutrition (MAM).

Musa Trawally, the Community Health Nurse, explained to Sanyang how this could be treated with SC+, which was being distributed to children aged between 6 and 23 months as part of WFP’s Blanket Supplementary Feeding programme.

SC+ is a combination of corn, soya beans, milk, oil, and sugar, which is fortified with micronutrients appropriate for malnourished children under 5. Usually, children who are given the supplement show positive results after just two months.

For Sanyang, it did not even take that long to notice an improvement. When he brought his daughter back to Trawally a month later, her upper arm measurement showed green on the scale, indicating a significant improvement from the yellow registered at the first visit.

“She was no longer in the MAM category. She was healthy again,” said the nurse, who is part of a team of 12 nurses servicing 14 communities around Brikamaba.

Sanyang was delighted.

“I could see on a daily basis how much she improved … There is no other product in the shops that compares to Super Cereal and I am happy that my child enjoys it. Her appetite increased immensely and she became more active and lively,” he said.

“Community ownership”

Trawally visited the family two weeks after the second SC+ distribution to check on the little girl’s progress. He found she had fully recovered.

Community Health Nurses, like Trawally, play an important role in WFP’s Blanket Supplementary Feeding programmes. They are the ones who identify Severe Acute Malnutrition and Moderate Acute Malnutrition in children, and they also advise communities on healthy nutrition practices and on how to prevent malnutrition in the first place.

But community members are also key players – like the group of grandmothers who were at the distribution in Brikama Ba, and who made sure those who had travelled furthest received their rations first. The women are all members of a local Food Management Committee and their job is to safeguard the nutritional wellbeing of the children in the community.

These grandmothers say they enjoy serving the community.

“We enjoy watching over the children while everyone else is working at the farms. Since our grandchildren are here, we decided it would be best to come and help. We are happy to be part of WFP’s assistance,” said Fatou Fatty, one of the grandmothers.

This targeted supplementary feeding in The Gambia is supported by WFP in partnership with the Ministry of Health and the National Nutrition Agency. It is a critical recovery mechanism that supports the treatment of 40,500 malnourished children, pregnant and nursing mothers.

Blanket Supplementary Feeding currently covers The Gambia’s Upper and Central River Regions. It seeks to protect 22,500 children, aged between 6‐23 months, in the most food-insecure households during the lean season, and to attain improved levels of food and nutrition security.