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Superwoman Darasalam at the heart of fighting malnutrition in Chad

By Badre Bahaji

The sharp shriek of a rooster at the break of dawn is the abrupt alarm clock that starts what is a very busy day for supermom, 28-year-old Darasalam. She gently wakes up her six daughters, quickly prepares breakfast, gets the children ready for school and herself ready for work – all before 7am.


As she inserts the key into the ignition of her scooter, her already packed morning shifts the day into another gear as she sets off to the Therapeutic Feeding Centre at the Liberté hospital where she works as a Nutrition Counselor. The UNICEF-supported center is run by the NGO Alima with financial support from the ECHO, the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Department.

A fighting spirit

Like many young girls in Chad, Darasalam was married very early – before she was 18 years old. But that didn’t keep her from pursuing her dream of a career in the medical field. « At first, my husband did not want me to study. But with time he saw how sick I was getting just by being at home and eventually, he was convinced and I studied to become a Medical Assistant.” Balancing a career and a family is not easy though and she admits that she has little free time with her children but she says, “ They understand that I love what I do ». The passion for her work and love for children is what motivates her each day in what is a demanding job at the Feeding Centre that treats some 300 children with severe acute malnutrition each month.

Chad has the third highest child mortality rate in the world, with one out of every six children dying before their fifth birthday. Malnutrition is among the leading causes of child mortality in Chad.

In late December 2011, the Government of Chad officially declared a nutrition crisis in the Sahel belt and appealed to the international humanitarian community for support to avert a famine. In response, UNICEF together with the government of Chad and with the financial backing of the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO), rolled out a rapid expansion of therapeutic feeding centres as well as other community led interventions to target malnutrition. In just four years, the number of feeding centres doubled to the current 500 centres now in operation across the country treating close to 150 000 children every year since.

Darasalam 2A juggling act

Nutrition counselors such as Darasalam are critical to tackling malnutrition. Each day, she swiftly moves among the rows of young patients making sure the children are eating correctly and advising the mothers on how to prevent malnutrition by preparing nutritious food at home and knowing what action to take if the situation worsens. Changing mindsets among mothers about how to treat malnutrition is one of the biggest challenges she faces. « The problem is that too many children arrive here after being treated by quacks and marabouts (religious practitioners). Some women even come to the health center with weird mixtures those people gave them. Some children arrive between life and death. I ask mothers to leave these things and let us work if they do not want to lose their child, » she explains.

Laugher is the best medicine

A permanent smile and a deep devotion to children: this is Darasalam’s simple recipe to warm the hearts of worried mothers and sick children. Through collective counseling she sets the mothers minds at ease and follows through with each child during their stay in the centre, which is usually a couple of days. Often this means she has to harness her skills as an actress in addition to her technical skills as a counselor. « I try to make them laugh, make them react. To do my job, you need to have a fighting spirit and the talent of an actress » she says, laughing.

More than 144,000 children now have access to the services and treatment at Therapeutic Feeding Centres. But as a Sahel country, Chad remains chronically food-insecure, with child malnutrition a major threat to the survival and development of children. Like other health workers, Darasalam is acutely aware of the challenges that lie ahead in the fight against malnutrition but this does not deter her in the least, “I have six children at home, but here we are trying to save the lives of thousands of children. I can’t work miracles, I just try to give them hope. »

Passionate and hardworking Chadian health workers like Nutrition Counsellor Darasalam are at the frontline of saving children’s lives. Watch her story and download multimedia contents here:

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L’Union européenne alloue 1.5 million € additionnel à l’UNICEF pour la lutte contre la malnutrition des enfants au Tchad

N’Djaména (Tchad), 23 octobre 2015. La Commission européenne a alloué 1,5 millions d’euros supplémentaires à l’UNICEF pour renforcer la réponse à la malnutrition infantile dans trois régions de l’ouest du Tchad, à savoir le Lac, le Kanem et le Bahr el Ghazal.

Cette aide supplémentaire survient suite à l’augmentation du nombre de cas d’enfants souffrant de malnutrition dans ces régions. La détérioration de la situation est causée par une mauvaise pluviométrie lors de la saison des pluies, de mauvaises récoltes et par la fermeture de facto de la frontière avec le Nigéria en raison de la violence liée au conflit avec Boko Haram. Ces différents aspects ont porté un véritable coup dur aux populations de l’ouest du Tchad.

« Compte tenu de l’impact du conflit en cours et des perturbations saisonnières, il est désormais indispensable que la communauté humanitaire accélère sa réponse nutritionnelle d’urgence. La généreuse contribution de la Commission européenne, par l’intermédiaire de son département pour l’aide humanitaire et la protection civile (ECHO), permettra une fois de plus d’assister les enfants tchadiens qui souffrent de la malnutrition, » a déclaré Philippe Barragne-Bigot, Représentant de l’UNICEF au Tchad.

« L’insécurité alimentaire dans l’ouest du Tchad a augmenté à un rythme alarmant. La violence le long de la frontière entre le Nigéria et le Tchad a provoqué de nouveaux déplacements de populations avec des conséquences humanitaires désastreuses, » a déclaré Olivier Brouant, Chef de Mission d’ECHO au Tchad. « Ce fonds supplémentaire permettra à l’UNICEF de continuer à relever les défis de la situation nutritionnelle, en maintenant et en améliorant le niveau d‘intervention dans les trois régions les plus touchées. »

Une récente enquête menée par le Programme Alimentaire Mondial (PAM) montre que l’insécurité alimentaire et la malnutrition ont atteint des taux alarmants dans la région du Lac et dans les régions voisines du Kanem et du Barh El Gazal. Le nombre de personnes en insécurité alimentaire dans ces trois régions a considérablement augmenté, passant de 339 000 à 522 000 en six mois. Le nombre d’admissions dans les hôpitaux pour la malnutrition a augmenté de 23 pour cent dans les trois régions par rapport à la même période l’an dernier. Les données recueillies montre qu’entre janvier et aout 2015, plus de 35.000 enfants sévèrement malnutris ont été admis pour traitement dans les trois régions. Le nombre étant beaucoup plus élevé que prévu, cette situation met à rude épreuve la capacité des centres de santé à répondre de manière adéquate.

Grâce à ce nouveau financement, l’UNICEF couvrira 184 établissements de santé et pourra soigner environ 24.000 enfants souffrant de Malnutrition Aigüe Sévère (MAS). En étroite coordination avec les organisations gouvernementales et non gouvernementales, l’UNICEF appuiera les systèmes existants pour améliorer la qualité et accroître l’accessibilité aux services sociaux de base.

Le financement s’ajoute à une contribution de 4 millions d’euros prévue plus tôt cette année par ECHO et UKAid, l’agence de développement international du Royaume-Uni. Grâce à la précédente contribution, l’UNICEF assure déjà le traitement des cas de MAS attendus chez les enfants de moins de cinq ans dans les régions de la bande sahélienne du Tchad. L’UNICEF assure aussi la provision d’équipements, de suppléments alimentaires, de médicaments essentiels et soutient la formation des personnels soignants au niveau local, en appui aux efforts du gouvernement du Tchad.

Centre de nutrition Koubicou, Goz Be•da, Tchad.
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A propos du service d’aide humanitaire et de protection civile de la Commission européenne (ECHO)

L’Union européenne et ses États membres sont les premiers donateurs mondiaux d’aide humanitaire. L’aide d’urgence est une expression de la solidarité européenne envers les populations victimes de crise humanitaires.

Le service d’aide humanitaire et de protection civile de la Commission européenne assure la livraison rapide et efficace de l’aide d’urgence de l’UE à travers ses deux instruments principaux : l’aide humanitaire et la protection civile. La Commission assiste plus de 120 millions de victimes de conflits et de catastrophes chaque année.

Avec son siège à Bruxelles et un réseau mondial de bureaux de terrain, ECHO fournit une assistance aux personnes les plus vulnérables sur la seule base des besoins humanitaires.

Pour plus d’information, visitez le site web d’ECHO

La Commission intervient au Tchad depuis 1994, à la suite de la crise des réfugiés du Darfour. Au cours de la dernière décennie, la Commission a engagé plus de 341 millions d’euros pour les programmes humanitaires dans le pays. Depuis 2014, elle a mis à disposition plus de 89,5 millions d’euros pour l’assistance multisectorielle apportée aux personnes touchées par les crises.

A propos de l’UNICEF

L’UNICEF travaille dans 190 pays et territoires pour aider les enfants à survivre et à prospérer, de la petite enfance à l’adolescence. En plus d’être le plus grand fournisseur mondial de vaccins aux pays en développement, l’UNICEF soutient la santé et la nutrition infantiles, l’accès à l’eau potable et à l’assainissement, une éducation de base de qualité pour tous les garçons et les filles et la protection des enfants contre la violence, l’exploitation et le sida. L’UNICEF est entièrement financé par des contributions volontaires de particuliers, d’entreprises, de fondations et de gouvernements. Pour plus d’information, visitez www.unicef.org et pour des informations sur le partenariat entre l’UNICEF et l’Union européenne, consultez: http://www.unicef.org/eu/

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Les agents de santé tchadiens passionnés et dévoués comme Daresalam sont en première ligne pour sauver les enfants de la malnutrition – Regardez son histoire et téléchargez les contenus multimédia ici : http://weshare.unicef.org/C.aspx?VP3=ViewBox&DNID=2AM40GXXQPXW&DM=Distribution

Pour plus d’information, contactez :

Mathias Eick. Chargé de l’Information Globale, DG ECHO (Commission Européenne) Nairobi,

+ 254-717968426, Mathias.Eick@echofield.eu I http://ec.europa.eu/echo/

Lalaina Fatratra Andriamasinoro I Chef de la Communication I UNICEF Tchad
+235 66 36 00 42 I lfandriamasinoro@unicef.org I www.unicef.org/chad

EU donates additional € 1.5 million to UNICEF to combat child malnutrition in Chad

N´DJAMENA (Chad), 23rd October 2015 – The European Commission has allocated additional Euro 1.5 million in humanitarian aid funding to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to strengthen the response to child under-nutrition in three regions in western Chad (namely Lac, Kanem and Bar El Ghazal).

This is in response to the increase in the number of cases of children suffering from under-nutrition in these regions. The deterioration of the situation is caused by a poor rainfall during the rainy season weakening the harvest and the de facto closure of the border with Nigeria due to Boko Haram-linked violence. Both have been a heavy blow to the livelihoods in Western Chad.

“Given the impact of both the seasonal and conflict related issues, there is now a need for the humanitarian community to accelerate their response with emergency food and nutrition assistance,” stated Philippe Barragne-Bigot, UNICEF Representative in Chad. “The European Commission’s generous contribution, via its Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO), will once again ensure that Chadian children suffering from under-nutrition can be assisted.”

“Food insecurity in Western Chad has increased at an alarming rate. The violence alongside the border between Nigeria and Chad caused new population displacements with dire humanitarian consequences,” said Olivier Brouant, Head of the ECHO Office in Chad. “The additional funding will allow UNICEF to continue to tackle the nutrition challenges, by maintaining and improving the response of interventions in the three most affected regions in this area.”

A recent survey conducted by the World Food Programme (WFP) shows alarming food insecurity and under-nutrition in the Lake Region and in bordering Kanem and Barh El Gazel. The number of food insecure people in these three regions of western Chad has increased from 339,000 to 522,000 in six months. The number of admissions to the hospitals related to the under-nutrition have increased by 23% percent in the three regions compared to the same period last year. Routinely gathered data on admissions for treatment shows that between January and August 2015 more than 35,000 severely undernourished children were admitted for treatment in the three regions. The number being much higher than expected for the period, it puts a serious strain on the capacity of the health centers to respond adequately.

With this new funding UNICEF will cover 184 health facilities and provide the treatment for almost 24,000 SAM (Severely Acutely Malnourished) children. In close coordination with governmental and non-governmental organizations, UNICEF will support existing systems to improve the quality as well as increase the accessibility of basic services.

The funding comes on top of a contribution of €4 million provided earlier this year by ECHO and UK Aid from the UK Government. Thanks to the previous contribution, UNICEF ensures the treatment of the expected SAM cases among children under-five years of age in the Sahel Regions of Chad. In addition, UNICEF will continue to improve the supply chain of Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food, to provide essential drugs and to build up districts’ capacities in the treatment of SAM.

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About the European Commission – Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO)

The European Union and its Member States are the world’s leading donor of humanitarian aid. Relief assistance is an expression of European solidarity towards people in need around the world. It aims to save lives, prevent and alleviate human suffering, and safeguard the integrity and human dignity of populations affected by natural disasters and man-made crises.

The European Commission ensures rapid and effective delivery of EU relief assistance through its two main instruments: humanitarian aid and civil protection. The Commission, through its Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO), helps over 120 million victims of conflict and disasters every year. With headquarters in Brussels and a global network of field offices, ECHO provides assistance to the most vulnerable people solely on the basis of humanitarian needs.

For more information, please visit ECHO’s website.

The Commission has assisted Chad with humanitarian aid since 1994,in the aftermath of the Darfur refugee crisis. Over the past decade, the Commission has committed more than €341 million for humanitarian programmes in the country. Since 2014, it has made available more than €89.5million for multi-sectorial assistance to people affected by the crises.

About UNICEF
UNICEF works in 190 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org

To find out more about the EU-UNICEF partnership, visit http://www.unicef.org/eu/

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Passionate and hardworking Chadian health workers like Nutrition Counsellor Darasalam are at the frontline of saving children’s lives. Watch her story and download multimedia contents here: http://weshare.unicef.org/C.aspx?VP3=ViewBox&DNID=2AM40GXXQPXW&DM=Distribution

For further information, please contact:

Mathias Eick Global Information Officer, DG ECHO (European Commission) Nairobi, + 254-717968426, Mathias.Eick@echofield.eu , http://ec.europa.eu/echo/

Lalaina Fatratra Andriamasinoro I Chief of Communication I UNICEF Chad
+235 66 36 00 42 I lfandriamasinoro@unicef.org I www.unicef.org/chad