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Providing children in Mauritania with good nutrition

Good nutrition forms the foundation for every child’s healthy development. But in the Guidimakha region of Mauritania, many mums fear for the health of their children.




By Action Against Hunger

Feb 25 2016

Here at Action Against Hunger, we believe that ensuring every child – no matter where they are born - is able to fulfil their potential begins with good nutrition. This article is part of our #HealthyMumsHealthyKids series focusing on the importance of good nutrition for children and their mums.

Scarce rainfall, large deficits in agricultural production and difficult access to basic foodstuffs have led to skyrocketing malnutrition rates in Guidimakha. For many mums, making ends meet is a daily struggle. Together with the support of UK aid from the Department for International Development (DFID) and the European Union's Humanitarian Aid & Civil Protection Department (ECHO), we’re helping mums tackle the malnutrition crisis in the area.​

“My daughter Khadidja was seriously ill,” said Fatima (33), when leaving Action Against Hunger’s nutrition centre. “"I took her to a healer in the village but her condition worsened. My neighbours advised me to take her to the Agoinitt Health Post where she was immediately referred to the nutrition centre. There she received treatment and now, by the grace of God, she has recovered."    

Our teams of nutrition experts detect, treat and prevent deadly malnutrition in children so they can regain their health and fulfil their potential. One year old Rabia has been diagnosed with malnutrition. Here her mum Hassin is feeding her with therapeutic food.    

Awa Cheikkhna, an Action Against Hunger health worker, is weighing Rabia and measuring her height. She then calculates the weight-for-height ratio and compare it to that of a healthy child to determine the severity of Rabia’s condition.

Awa Cheikkhna and her team measure the height of 1 year old Hamidou. The age, height, weight and mid-upper arm circumference are all taken into account when screening children for malnutrition.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

Yero Barry, head nurse at a health clinic in the region , taking the blood pressure of a patient. His team is also looking after mums to be to ensure they’re well-nourished and healthy. Here Yerro Barry, Head Nurse at the Ould Mbonny Health Centre, is taking the blood pressure of a patient. 

“This year, seven pregnant women died due to the isolation of the area and the lack of an ambulance. That is why I welcome Action Against Hunger’s plans to open mobile clinics in the region so mums and their children can have access to the care they so urgently need."

And our work to provide children and mums with healthy futures doesn’t stop here. Here a theatre group working with Action Against Hunger performs a play to help mums and dads learn how to spot malnutrition in young children and how to prevent it.    

The theatre is also an ideal communication tool to engage the interest of the communities where we work. Action Against Hunger team members sometimes do performances to help people learn infant and young child feeding practices that will help them stay healthy. On this day, actors from the Alphas Chapo troupe were dancing, singing, and laughing with local children in Keur Samba Kandji village. An Action Against Hunger health worker couldn’t help but be moved by the music, and he got in on the fun.  

Fatimatou carefully watches the performance. "Now I pay attention to hygiene not only in food preparation but also for the whole house. I also make sure my children take all their vaccines so they stay healthy," she said.          

Fatoumatou Alissy, works with the theatre group and Action Against Hunger to ensure children have access to good nutrition and, where needed, treatment. In her performances she uses a doll to show good care practices and help mums protect their children from malnutrition.

The right nutrition during pregnancy and in the first years of a child’s life has a profound impact on a child’s ability to grow, learn and thrive. It is why we’re committed to help women and children in Guidimakha get the right nutrition during this important time. Because every child deserves a happier, healthier future.  

With your help, we can continue to do amazing things for the people of Guidimakha, and bring permanent change that will benefit generations of families to come.


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Images: Sylvain Chekoui for ECHO, DFID and Action Against Hunger Mauritania