Combating Malnutrition in Cité Soleil
Published on 13 July 2011

Marie Francillon with her 21-month old son Francisco Charmant in a Cite Soleil health center. She gets WFP fortified peanut paste to fight malnutrition. Copyrights: WFP/ Stephanie Tremblay

The World Food Programme is supporting the Haitian Government's efforts to prevent and combat malnutrition.

The street is quiet. On a vacant lot, children in their school uniforms are playing before going back home. If you look quickly, Cite Soleil –or Site Soley in creole-, isn’t that different from other impoverished Port-au-Prince neighborhoods.

Haitians often say that the only thing sunny here is the commune’s name. Cité Soleil is one of the biggest slums in the Northern hemisphere.

The harsh reality of life here often remains hidden from the main streets. In the back alleys, tens of thousands of people live in overcrowded shacks. Extreme poverty is a fact of life and access to basic necessities and services is a challenge for many families.

port-au-prince neighborhoodIn the section of the commune called Soleil 22, a health center built after the earthquake is operating at full speed. That morning, the waiting area is filled with pregnant women, mothers, a few fathers and their young children.

“I come here every week”, said Marie Francillon, a mother of two. Today, she is at the clinic with her malnourished 21-month old son, Francisco Charmant. “Our house was destroyed in the earthquake, she explains. We’ve been living in a tent for nearly a year and a half.” Her husband sells auto parts, but after the earthquake she never managed to save enough money to restart her small business selling live chickens. “It’s not easy to make ends meet and we can’t always afford to buy as much food as we’d like”, she adds, to explain why her son is not as healthy as she’d like him to be.

franciscoEvery week, Francisco goes through what has become a ritual. He steps on the scale (he now weighs 9kg), his arm and height are measured by the nurse, and if his mother has concerns about her son’s health, a doctor is there to help.

Once this is done, Francisco’s mother gets her weekly ration of mamba, or peanut butter in creole. The product may look –and even taste like mamba, but in fact, what she is getting is a fortified peanut paste provided by the World Food Programme to fight malnutrition.

“My son’s health has improved a lot”, says Francisco’s mother. Her family is still struggling to recover from the earthquake, but she knows that, with the help she’s getting, her son is growing up healthy.

The center is managed by the Italian NGO AVSI, and is one of several in the country that support the Haitian government’s efforts to improve public health. The nurses and doctors provide integrated services free of charge using resources from the Ministry of Health, WFP, UNICEF and other partners. 

Sancha Bercy, the doctor on guard at the clinic that morning says that every week, she sees new patients. “It’s radyo dyol – or word of mouth, she says. People know we’re here, and the services we offer make a real difference for the health of this community”.

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About the author

Stephanie Tremblay

Public Information Officer

Stephanie Tremblay worked for WFP as a Public Information Officer.