Moussa’s feeding tube looks enormous on his gaunt face. He’s too feeble to cry but simply stares at the people around him, visibly in pain. He has been hospitalized due to severe malnutrition and complications.
“I knew there was a nutritional program in the hospital because my oldest daughter has been hospitalized before when she was malnourished,” says Fanna. “We eat once per day. The food is never enough, so my children get often sick. And now it’s even worse, since the harvest is over,” she says.
A cyclical crisis compounded
This food emergency is the result of several factors, including inadequate nutritional practices, climate change, difficulties with access to land and clean drinking water, and fragile health systems in a country in the midst of a deep economic crisis.
Twelve of the 23 regions in Chad have now been declared in a ‘nutritional emergency’ and the prevalence of severe acute malnutrition has exceeded the emergency threshold by 2 percent in 15 regions. The first victims of this cyclical nutritional crisis are inevitably the most vulnerable: children below the age of five.
A treatment plan built on nourishment and play
To treat severe malnutrition at the nutritional feeding center in Am Timan hospital, patients receive special food to help them recover appetite and responsiveness. They are fed therapeutic milk containing sugar, oil, and a high-protein peanut paste fortified with vitamins and minerals. The children admitted to this program have very low weight and severe muscle wasting. They may also have nutritional edema—characterized by swollen feet, face, and limbs. They will be discharged when they are able to eat again without medical assistance.