One year on from the devastating food crisis which enveloped east Africa, we’re taking a closer look at what malnutrition really means and how Merlin responds to save lives.
Malnutrition is a silent emergency. The World Health Organisation estimates that almost one-third of children in developing countries are malnourished.
With proper nutrition, a child is likely to be healthy, productive and able to learn. They are likely to grow up to benefit their family and community. By the same logic, malnutrition can leave a devastating legacy. It means a child is more susceptible to disease, less able to learn and develop, perpetuating poverty for years to come.
That’s why Merlin’s nutrition work always focuses on the most vulnerable – young children and mothers.
Sam Terio’s young life was saved by a Merlin nutrition programme in Kenya. Sam was enrolled on a weight stabilisation programme right away and given antibiotics and therapeutic milk formula to combat his weight loss and vulnerability to disease.
After two weeks, with Sam beginning to gain weight, he was discharged from the clinic, with instructions to take a nutrition substance called Plumpy Nut until his weight reached a normal level for a boy of his age.
Merlin’s approach to malnutrition is two-fold: first, we do our utmost to prevent it from happening in the first place.
Our teams in east Africa and around the world provide health education, promoting exclusive breast-feeding up to six months and educating mothers on what to feed their children, preventing children from ever becoming malnourished in the first place.
Where there is food insecurity and children under 5, pregnant and breastfeeding women are at risk we may run a supplementary feeding programme, providing families with a corn soya blend to supplement food supplies.
Those who fall through Merlin’s preventative net, and are too severely malnourished to be treated at home with ready to use therapeutic food, are admitted to a Merlin stabilisation centre to make sure they get the nutrients they so desperately need.
Once they’ve been admitted to our stabilisation centres, malnourished patients are enrolled onto our feeding programmes and given (sometimes via their parents, if they are too young to feed themselves) a course of therapeutic milk products infused with vitamins and minerals.
Thousands of children and young people across the east Africa region were treated for malnutrition at the height of the food crisis last year – with your help, we can continue saving lives this year