DAKAR – Coumba Ba didn’t know what to do when her daughter started losing weight, strength and even her will to play. High food prices meant there was no money to buy nutritious food – even getting a daily meal of the local staple millet was a struggle.
“She became weaker and weaker and lost a lot of weight. I did not know what to do,” says the 30-year-old mother. Eventually, when the child’s health deteriorated further, Coumba took her to a health centre in Lougre Thioly, a remote, dry region in the eastern part of Senegal.
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The International Congress of Nutrition in Bangkok last week looked for solutions to the need for global 'nutrition security'.
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Once there, the child was treated and admitted into a WFP supplementary feeding programme, meaning that the family started to receive specially fortified food rations.
"My little girl changed so much since I received the first food ration earlier this year," Coumba says. "She is finally becoming lively again."
Coumba’s nomadic family lives at the moment in a small hut surrounded by dust. The nearest market is 60 kilometers away, and prices are high.
Malnutrition is a problem in eastern Senegal, especially near the Malian border. In the Matam area -- according to a joint WFP-UNICEF-Ministry of Health assessment -- the acute malnutrition rate is at 18 percent. Meanwhile, an estimated 40 percent of the West African nation's population are seen living below the poverty line -- calculated by the UN Development Program as subsisting on less than US$1.25 per day.
Diet of millet
There is scant availability of health services in remote areas. Access to clean drinking water is limited. The daily diet of millet seen in the Ba family is typical of the larger population.
Most of WFP's activities in Senegal are nutrition-related, with supplementary feeding for children under 5 years of age a priority. In cooperation with the government, which has put in place strategies for reducing malnutrition, WFP assists almost one million people.
WFP activities reach pre/primary school children in rural areas; pregnant and lactating women who participate in nutrition awareness sessions; and vulnerable people from highly food insecure rural households.