world food day

World Food Day 2017

To coincide with World Food Day, Action Against Hunger urges support for its Healthy Mums, Healthy Kids Appeal 

By Jean-Michel Grand

Oct 16 2017

With recent estimates revealing that chronic undernourishment still persists for at least 815 million people globally, this World Food Day we are asking the public to support a new appeal to fund a pioneering project for young mothers and their babies in Senegal’s poverty-stricken north-eastern Matam province, where child hunger levels regularly peak well above emergency thresholds.

With the help of the British public, and match funding from the UK Government, we aim to help 66,000 vulnerable teenage mums and mums-to-be access the right nutrition and specialist support they so desperately need to ensure that their children avoid a lifetime of experiencing the devastating effects of malnutrition including potential stunting, weakened immune systems and both mental and physical developmental problems. What is more, this year your support will go twice as far because the UK Government will double all donations so we can provide even more children with better nutrition and care. 

During the first six months of this year alone, a staggering 1,468 severe acute malnutrition cases requiring lifesaving treatment were reported in our busy Action Against Hunger-supported hospitals, health centres and health posts in the remote region where more than twenty per cent of girls aged 15-19 years old have had one child or are pregnant. From raising awareness amongst young mums about positive reproductive health and mother and baby nutrition, to improving access to integrated family planning services and providing specialist training to nurses, midwives and teachers, we are committed to helping children born in Matam to grow up strong and healthy, giving them the very best chance to fulfil their true potential.

Meet The Midwives Changing Perceptions in Matam

Madame Tall Khouly Ly

 

Madame Tall Khouly Ly, one of the midwives tackling malnutrition in Matam, Senegal.

 

A midwife at an Action Against Hunger-supported health post in the poor Matam suburb of Souboula, Madame Tall Khouly Ly bears daily witness to the struggle facing young mums-to-be struggle in carrying and delivering strong, healthy babies. 

“Recently, I referred a very young pregnant girl to the hospital. She was malnourished and weak and body was unable to cope with the unborn baby’s increased demands for energy and nutrients. She was still a child herself.  Tragically, she did not survive her pregnancy.” Babies born to vulnerable young adolescents are at much greater risk of malnutrition and, the younger a girl is when she conceives, the greater the medical risks to her and her new baby’s health. However, the vast majority of boys and girls in Matam do not have any access to reproductive health education or what constitutes a healthy diet.

With the help of the British public, and match funding from the UK Government, we aim to help 66,000 vulnerable teenage mums and mums-to-be access the right nutrition and specialist support they so desperately need to ensure that their children avoid a lifetime of experiencing the devastating effects of malnutrition

“The right food is especially vital during pregnancy but in many cases the pregnant girls we see here are malnourished themselves and, as a result, often experience difficulties during pregnancy and birth, as do their babies who after often born prematurely, underweight, or sick,” she asserts. “One of my patients has had four children in the past five years. I gave her, and all of the other young mums we see here, essential information about the course of pregnancy, delivery, postnatal care, family planning, immunisation schedules and growth monitoring, as well as mosquito nets, medicines such as iron, vaccines and anti-malarial medication, and psycho-social support. For example, instead of breast-feeding here, many mums want to give their children water to drink because they believe they need it to cope with the heat. I tell them that it is risky to give them water and that breastfeeding their child is the best thing they can do to ensure their good health.” 

Madame Seck

 

Madame Seck, one of the midwives in Matam, Senegal changing lives of mums, mums-to-be and their children.

 

For Madame Seck, being a midwife is a calling. Together with other midwives in Matam, Madame Seck supports mums-to-be and young mums during and after their pregnancies so that they and their children can be healthy. 
She advises mums to see her for their monthly check-ups, provides them with advice on how to diversify their diets and encourages them to breastfeed exclusively. She also works closely with youth peer educators to inform teenagers about family planning and confidential services on nutrition and health. 

“Pregnant women should have at least five healthy meals a day but more girls struggle to have a diversified diet. They mainly eat couscous or rice; rarely do they eat fruits or vegetables. Women who have a poor nutritional status at conception and during pregnancy are at a higher risk of disease and death. Their health depends greatly on the availability of food; without the right nutrients women are unable to cope with their increased nutrient needs during pregnancy," she says. “We absolutely must work across the health, community and education sectors to provide integrated information and support to adolescents so that they can learn about reproductive health and good nutrition. By empowering them to make their own decisions on when and how many children they have, and providing them with the information they need to look after themselves during pregnancy, we can tackle malnutrition head on.” 

 

 

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Photos: A.Parsons/i-images for Action Against Hunger