Malnutrition rates in Sierra Leone are among the highest in the world and the leading cause of child mortality in the country. In partnership with the Government of Sierra Leone, WFP is supporting malnourished children from the poorest households through a supplementary feeding programme, reaching 49,740 children across the country.
Yabom Sesay, a woman in her fifties, has traveled over eight miles to the Songo health center from her village in the Port Loko district of northern Sierra Leone. Like many mothers and caretakers of malnourished children, she makes the trip to the clinic every Wednesday to receive food supplies and other services for her seven-month-old grandson Essa.
Essa’s mother, Isatu, died of tooth infection shortly after giving birth, and his father, a tailor, is unable to support him. This has left Sesay, a widowed grandmother, alone to care for Essa and his two siblings. She sells cake to support herself and her grandchildren.
“It has not been easy for me, especially since the children’s father has not been supportive,” she says with tears in her eyes as sweat-drenched Essa sleeps on her lap.
With limited resources available, Sesay used to give Essa powdered milk, but he became severely malnourished and sick at the age of six months. After a month of treatment through the health center’s Outpatient Therapeutic programme, he was enrolled in the center’s Supplementary Feeding Programme, designed to provide continued support for patients with moderate acute malnutrition. Through this programme, children like Essa receive rations of sugar, oil and super cereal plus—an improved corn-soya blend enriched with micronutrients—from WFP to help them recover.
Essa is now one year old and has been discharged from the programme.
“The food that Essa has been eating helped him to gain weight, and he has been healthy ever since,” Sesay proudly recalls. “Without support from WFP, Essa may not have made it.”
The Songo health center is one of 63 supplementary feeding centers in western Sierra Leone supported by WFP thanks to funding from the Government of Japan. Like many of these centers, Songo provides health and nutrition education in addition to vaccination, growth monitoring and supplementary feeding activities.
Malnutrition rates in Sierra Leone are among the highest in the world. Some 46 percent of child deaths in Sierra Leone are attributed to malnutrition, the leading cause of child mortality in the country, and 267 out of every 1,000 children die before their fifth birthday. Malnutrition will be the primary cause of an estimated 74,000 child deaths during the next five years. If current levels of iodine deficiency do not improve over the next five years, 252,000 children could be born with varying degrees of mental retardation.
A total of 49,740 children are benefiting from the supplementary feeding programme across the country. The programme is vital to reducing malnutrition, and enriched foods provide vulnerable children the nutrients they need to thrive.