Haiti: Feeding Children Fends Off Malnutrition In Slums

Janette Andres and her 15-month-old son Wagnerlov come to a supplementary feeding centre near Cite' Soleil to eat a nutritious helping of Plumpy'Doz. Copyright: WFP/Maria Gabriela Flores

Janette Andres lives in Cité Soleil, one of Haiti’s biggest and poorest slums. Her husband was killed in the January earthquake, leaving her to fend for herself and their four children. While Janette looks for a way to support them, WFP is helping her protect her family from malnutrition.

PORT-AU-PRINCE – Life in Cité Soleil, one of the poorest places in the Nothern Hemisphere, was never easy. But it’s gotten worse since the earthquake.

Janette is among the many women who lost their homes and husbands that day. She says she’s grateful not to have lost her children too, but frightened by the prospect of having to raise them on her own. Never abundant in Cité Soleil, food has been scarce since the earthquake and children like her 15-month-old son Wagnernlov are falling prey to malnutrition.

Mothers and children

Janette says Wagernlov was listless and weak when she first brought him to the Place Fierte supplementary feeding centre in early May. “But after two weeks, he’s already doing better. We come every day and each time he eats a little more,” she said.

Marina Sint Opare, a nutritionist from WFP’s partner in Haiti, the Association of Volunteers in International Service (AVSI), confirmed that the toddler was in dire straits before he started receiving food aid.

“We have many cases of malnutrition in this area. Children like Wagnerlov did not have a proper diet before the earthquake, which makes them especially vulnerable now that it’s even harder to get nutritious food. Unless we reach them now, they’re in serious danger of suffering permanent harm.”

Peace of mind

To protect Haiti’s youngest from the lifelong scarring of hunger, WFP is providing over 550,000 nursing mothers and children under four with foods specially designed to stave off malnutrition. Kids like Wagnerlov are eating healthy doses of plumpy nut, a nutritional supplement that packs 500 calories and over 16 vitamins and minerals into a 92 g package of fortified  peanut-paste.

Families also receive rations of corn soya blend (CSB), oil and sugar to take home and prepare for the rest of the family. In addition to the inhabitants of Port-au-Prince’s slums, the programme is also targeting families who have left the capital for Haiti’s rural countryside.

Why nutrition matters
Children who don't get enough of the vitamins and minerals their bodies need during the first two years of life run the risk of stunting, or lower than average growth. It can also comprimise mental development and render children more vulnerable to disease. Here are ten reasons why the world should face the nutrition challenge.