Burkina Faso: Mother Learns To Fend Off Malnutrition

Published on 22 November 2010

Assétau Bagagnan brought her 14-month-old son Sayouba to the Bemh nutrition centre when he started showing signs of malnutrition. Copyright:WFP/Malek Triki

Assétau Bagagnan, a mother of four, says she knew nothing at all about the importance of getting the right vitamins and nutrients before bringing her malnourished baby son to a feeding centre in rural Burkina Faso. Armed with this new knowledge, she says she’s now better equipped to care for her family.

BEMH-- Assétau Bagagnan, 30, would not have been able to treat her child’s malnutrition, had it not been for the Bemh community nutrition centre.

“I have no money at all. My husband and I work hard to grow millet and maize on our farmland. But we can barely feed ourselves and our children,” she said. “This centre has been a godsend. They treated my 14-month-old son Sayouba and are still helping me to feed him properly. All for free.”

Assétau and her son are now among more than 185, 000 beneficiaries of WFP supplementary feeding programme in Burkina Faso.

Breaking the hunger cycle

Ensuring that mothers and children get the nutrition their bodies need is a vital step in breaking the hunger cycle.

Learning about nutrition

A mother of four, Assétau says that before coming to the WFP-supported Bemh community centre, she did not even know what malnutrition really was. She only began learning how important a balanced and nutritious diet was after seeing the effect it had on her children.

“I used to think that as long as you somehow got your belly full, then you were well-fed and in good health. But then I fell sick and my son, Sayouba, was just 8 months old at the time became underweight,” said Assétau.

“I got really scared. I didn’t know what to do. So the village women sent me to the Bemh nutrition centre.”

Bemh, a community of 2,100 people, is tucked away in an isolate corner of the Yatenga province of northern Burkina Faso, where rates of malnutrition are among the highest in West Africa.

The Bemh nutrition centre draws women from as far as 15 km away who come by foot to have their children treated for malnutrition. They also receive a monthly ration of vegetable oil and corn-soya blend (CSB) used to make a nourishing porridge for their families.

Family's breadwinner

Assétau absorbs a wealth of important information through the discussions she takes part in at the centre. These cover hygiene practices, how best to prevent malaria and the risks involved in weaning children too early—a primary cause of child malnutrition in the area.

Like many women in Burkina Faso, Assétau is her family’s main breadwinner. Only recently, she was left to care for her family alone when her husband went to the capital, Ouagadougou, to try to make some cash by doing odd jobs ahead of harvest time.

She learned this role from her own mother, who raised her and her siblings on her own after her father left them to fend for themselves when she was only three.

Now that her son is healthy again, Assétau is sharing what she learned with her fellow mothers and says they’ll all be better equipped to raise healthier children with this new knowledge.

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about the author

Malek Triki

Spokesperson - Senegal - West Africa

Malek Triki was a journalist for over 20 years, mainly with the BBC Arabic Service and Al-Jazeera. He joined WFP in 2010 as a spokesperson in West Africa.