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UN agencies team up to save malnourished children in Ethiopia

UN agencies team up to save malnourished children in Ethiopia

Two United Nations agencies working together in Ethiopia are helping the country respond to stunted growth and malnutrition in the young by providing food and nutritional assistance, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has said.

The project “is saving thousands of lives in Ethiopia by providing mothers and children with key survival interventions,” the agency said in a news release on the Enhanced Outreach Strategy/ Targeted Supplementary Food programme.

A joint initiative between the Government, UNICEF and the UN World Food Programme (WFP), the European-backed strategy aims to give the most vulnerable access to food, primary health care and nutritional awareness. It also monitors the nutritional status of populations for better emergency preparedness and response.

The Head of European Commission in Ethiopia, Tim Clarke, visited EC-funded projects in the country’s Tigray Region last week and spoke about the fate of those without access to enough food. “We’ve just seen a child here who is 18 months’ old. Her normal weight should be 13 kilos but she’s only 5 kilos, so she’s really at risk... through this programme we can give her therapeutic feeding and give her a chance to survive,” he said.

In Tigray, more than 41 per cent of children under five experience stunted growth and an estimated 11.6 per cent suffer from acute malnutrition, according to UNICEF, which blamed the problem on drought and food insecurity. Nationally, the 2005 Demographic and Health Survey shows that 47 per cent of Ethiopia’s children were stunted and 11 per cent wasted.

Interventions provided to children and pregnant and lactating women include vitamin-A supplementation, de-worming, measles immunization, malaria prevention through long-lasting insecticide treated nets distribution and screening for malnutrition, UNICEF said.

UNICEF Head of Nutrition and Food Security section Dr. Iqbal Kabir stressed that much more needed to be done. “At present, Tigray has just over 500 places within the Therapeutic Feeding Programme throughout the region. For complete coverage we need roughly 14,000 to cope with on-going severe malnutrition needs – that is still a huge gap.”