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MSF in Burkina Faso, 2010
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Malnutrition is a chronic problem in Burkina Faso, but hits particularly hard in the period between the two annual harvests, known as the “hunger gap”.
Young children are vulnerable to malnutrition because a lack of essential micronutrients and vitamins can lead to restricted mental and physical growth. Malnourished children are also more susceptible to other diseases, such as malaria, diarrhoea and respiratory infections, and severe malnutrition can cause death.
Treating malnutrition in young children
Since 2007 MSF has been treating malnutrition in children under the age of five in the northern towns of Yako and Titao. MSF testing and treatment programmes are based in 16 local health centres, bringing care closer to more people’s homes.
Staff measure the circumference of infants’ upper arms to test for malnutrition. Children suffering severe medical complications, such as other diseases, are admitted to hospital. If there are no complications the children are given ready-to-use food, which is a peanut-based paste containing all the calories, proteins, vitamins and micronutrients that a child needs to recover. Caregivers are given enough food sachets to last for a week so that they can feed their children at home. This home-based treatment does not interfere with the parent’s work, and the child’s progress is monitored weekly at the clinic. The children usually recover fully after about four weeks.
“Detecting and treating malnutrition in its early stages is essential, as it means that treatment can be offered quickly and ensures a much faster recovery time for the children”, said Sylvie Goosens, medical coordinator for the project. “Also, treating children earlier requires fewer resources, which means we can treat more”, she said.
Nonetheless, as more children are screened for malnutrition and able to access treatment, more will need to be hospitalised. MSF expanded the hospital in Titao in 2010, building an extra structure that increased capacity from 80 to 150 beds. In 2010, more than 11,700 children received care for malnutrition. Since the project started in 2007, 50,940 children have received care.
Reinforcing care for malaria
Malaria is very common in Burkina Faso and in 2010 MSF increased its efforts to combat the disease, offering testing and treatment to every visitor to every centre where it was working. Between August and December, approximately 74,300 people received treatment, including 780 children who had more serious forms of malaria.
MSF has worked in Burkina Faso since 1995.