Archives du mot-clé health

Children lives matter

By Badre Bahaji

I have been part of vaccination campaigns in many different regions and contexts, but nothing similar to the nomadic camp of Tchofio where a recent measles outbreak ravaged the community.

It is early morning as we head out to Abreche, in the Sahel Belt of Chad, where Oumar Mahazer, the Head of the health center is waiting for us. Many nomadic camps settle in his remote region during the rainy season but very few nomads make it to the health center. Today, he’s sending two vaccinators, Youssouf and Yaya, to the nomadic camp of Tchofio to immunize children against measles.

Ahmat Manani, 7. Children in the Nomad Camp of Tchofio in the Guera Region – Central Chad. Because of their multiple displacements and difficult access to basic social services, the local health center has organized various immunization campaign in the

Youssouf was born and raised in this area and knows every tree, every river around. “The nomads live with us but they move their camp twice a year looking for grazing and water points. Recently, I was in the market and saw nomadic children with red lips, eyes full of dirt and spots all over their bodies. I had almost no doubt that this was measles. I went to see their parents and I told them to go straight to the health center for medical care. I also alerted the authorities,” he said.

After a 30 minutes’ drive and a long walk in the bush under the heat, we get to the Tchofio nomadic camp. We realize that none of the children there had been immunized as we walk from tent to tent to sensitize families and immunize their children. “During the last measles outbreak, these nomads were not located here and they missed the campaign, it’s important to reach them to prevent any new epidemics,” adds Yaya.

 

Halime Attaï - 25 and her 4 children - all healed from measles outbreak. Children in the Nomadic Camp of Aboudroua in the Guera Region – Central Chad. Because of their multiple displacements and difficult access to basic social services, the local hea

Halime Attai, 25, is the mother of four beautiful children. During the last epidemic, early 2016 three of her children, Moussa, Izza and Mariam caught measles. “We were far away in the bush with our cattle, that’s why we missed the campaign but we have no problem with immunizing our children. We want them to be healthy, we have no reason to say refuse. Now that they are immunized, I don’t have to worry about that disease anymore,“ she said, smiling.

In Chad, because of conflict, or multiple displacements – inherent to the nomadic lifestyle – millions of children miss out on the basic vaccines they need to stay healthy and have a fair chance in life. Immunization against measles is an affordable and simple way to protect these children, especially the most underserved and marginalized communities.

 

Mariam Djibrine - 5  Children in the Nomadic Camp of Aboudroua in the Guera Region – Central Chad. Because of their multiple displacements and difficult access to basic social services, the local health center has organized various immunization campaign

Since the beginning of 2016, 318 cases of measles were detected in Chad. In total seven health districts in 4 regions were targeted to launch a mass immunization campaign. With support from the European Union’s humanitarian aid and civil protection department (ECHO), UNICEF launched an emergency immunization campaign. The response mobilized more than 700 vaccinators and community workers to reach close to 415 000 children aged 9 months to 14 years of age.

 Credit: UNICEF Chad/2016/Bahaji

 

 

 

 

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Haoua and Halimé: A victory against malnutrition

By Badre Bahaji

In a beautiful, natural landscape, and under the watchful eye of the Queen of Guera, the mountain range and the region’s visiting card, we meet Haoua, a young nomad mother who waged a battle against malnutrition and malaria, which her daughter suffered from.

Haoua, 17, is married and has a 17-month old daughter (Halimé). She welcomes us to her nomad campsite in Kadam (Ferrique Kadam), where she has settled with her family. We are close to Niergui, a village in the Sahelian region of Guéra in Chad.

Haoua’s neighbour, Ismael, tells us that « this region is very popular with nomadic families that come here during the rainy season, because of its fresh and green pastures where they can feed the cattle ». « The cultivation of cereals (mostly sorghum and maize) is another activity that ensures the survival of many families during this time of year« , Ismael adds.

Haoua takes care of her daughter, does the household chores, and grows peanuts, millet, sesame, and other cereals, which contribute to the family income. Still, the lack of a proper diet and other deficiencies have put her baby in danger.

In regards to what took her to the Niergui Health Centre the first time, Haoua says: « I went with my daughter because she had severe diarrhoea« . Encouraged by her husband and advised by a community health worker who regularly visits the Ferrique Kadam, Haoua walked for several hours with her daughter on her back to be seen at the Niergui Health Centre, located 15 Km away.

« In addition to diarrhoea, he told me that my daughter was malnourished and had malaria« , Haoua recalls the words of the nurse that attended to them at the Niergui Health Centre. Halimé was admitted and began treatment for malnutrition and malaria.

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« After receiving medication, my daughter was cured in two weeks », the mother points out in Chadian Arabic. In later visits to the health centre, Haoua was given ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF) provided with support of partners such as ECHO and DFID, and took the opportunity to get therapeutic flour, which is also indicated for the replenishment of essential nutrients in children.

 « The problem is that mothers are unaware of the food needed to feed their babies and they ignore the importance of exclusively breastfeeding« , says Pambro Rigobert, the nurse who examined the nomadic baby. The nurse, who has also been head of the Niergui Health Centre since 2013, also comments on the « cultural constraints and bad habits » among the most common causes of malnutrition, recurrent in that area of the country despite the abundance of nutritious local produce.

Asked about the most common children’s cases in the Health Centre, Pambro Rigobert refers to cases of « malaria, diarrhoea, and malnutrition » coming immediately after acute respiratory infections.

In this context, the nurse stresses the importance of partners, such as ECHO and DFID,  in the reduction of child mortality, which « provide medication, food supplements, and mosquito nets impregnated with insecticide », among other materials.

These partners, the specialist continues, « also contribute in regards to the equipment used and the community health worker’s level of training – these are volunteer health workers who visit the villages to advise families and identify maternal and child health problems« . The community health workers play an essential role in providing health care to the families, both in terms of the population living in remote villages or with difficult access, and nomadic communities whose tradition dictates that a newborn should not leave the campsite during the first 40 days of life.

« We are delighted with the work of the community health workers« , says Ismael – Haoua’s neighbour – a nomadic shepherd and a father for the first time recently. Like Haoua, Ismael has settled with his family in Ferrique Kadam and grows cereals like sorghum and sesame.

Following the advice given by the community health workers, the baby is being breastfed and Ismael knows he can – and should – go to the Niergui Health Centre whenever necessary. « We are happy when we see the community health worker, we always welcome them with open arms« .

Dazzled by the scenery and the story of the triumph against malnutrition, we leave Ferrique Kadam while Haoua prepares a peanut-based porridge for Halimé who after a lot of playtime, cries out for food with a sleepy look.

The European Union’s humanitarian aid and civil protection department and the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) are strengthening UNICEF response to multiple crisis in the Sahel belt in Chad with two grants of 4 500 000 and 350 000 Euro, which will support the treatment of over 45 000 severely malnourished children and the measles vaccination of close to 475 000.

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Who’s knocking on the door?

By Davy Takendjilembaye

One morning, Noah Barmi woke up with leg pain. He was only 2. Every day, the pain was stronger. Noah and his family lived in a remote community in Southern Chad. At that time, his parents could only find one explanation: their son was bewitched.

Nahomie Habede is working at the Kelo health center, a little town in Southern Chad: « In some communities, especially in the 2000s, the vaccine against polio was seen as a poison to harm children. If a child was sick, people would directly accuse witches, but when polio knocks on your door, it’s tough to escape. Now it’s us, the community volunteers, who knock on the doors of parents to raise awareness and get them to immunize their children to eradicate this disease for good! « 

Noah saw several traditional healers, but the pain got worse and worse. His mother, Marie Blouka describes this moment with an hesitant voice and shifty eyes: « After giving birth, I had problems with my husband. I went to live my parents in the bush, and I did not go back to the health center to immunize my child. It’s that short distance from the house to the health center that keeps my son to walk today. « 

Paralyzed by polio, Noah is 7 today. Despite his disability, he plays with his siblings and friends under the mango tree that provides shade to their house, located outside the city of Kelo. He always moves with his wooden crutches: « I have to use crutches for any movement, it takes lots of efforts, especially when I go to school. I have difficulties to do certain things, but I’m getting by, » he said, smiling.

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Noah and his mother Marie Blouka

« I am sad to see him play with these crutches when other children can jump and run everywhere. The life of my child could have been so different, » regrets Marie. “Noah’s mother is very committed to raise awareness in the community. She encourages mothers to vaccinate their children. She’s just telling her personal story, lots of people change their minds afterwards » concludes Nahomie.

Thanks to the engagement of the Chadian government, backed by committed donor support and through close collaboration with UNICEF and WHO, the country was able to eradicate polio in a relatively short period of time.

In 2011, the country had reached an all-time high of 132 new cases. Between 2012 and 2015, more than 3 million children under 5 were reached through national and sub-national immunization days, resulting in 85 per cent of Chadian children immunized with at least three doses of oral polio vaccine. National and localized immunization campaigns were held across the vast Chadian territory and involved more than 8,000 social mobilizers and 9,000 vaccinators per campaign on average, to reach millions of children.

Chad’s polio eradication effort was made under the umbrella of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) and involved many partners. The European Union, the Governments of Japan, Canada and the United States, as well as global partners such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, GAVI Alliance, the Rotary International and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) played a key role in financing polio eradication interventions.