Partnerships Prove Crucial In Times of Emergency - The Malawi Experience

To combat escalating malnutrition rates, the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), is funding WFP and UNICEF to ensure comprehensive nutrition treatment services are available for children and pregnant/breastfeeding women at health facilities in 25 districts affected by the current food insecurity in Malawi. In districts with high incidences of HIV and tuberculosis (TB), malnutrition treatment services are also offered to malnourished adults.

 

 

As a result of a poor harvest in 2015 and current widespread dry spells associated with the global El Niño weather phenomenon, malnutrition rates have surged across Malawi. In the past three months, there has been a 100 percent increase in reported child malnutrition cases.

Nkhoma Mission Hospital, in Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe, has treated a growing number of these cases. Mother Dorothy Laston brought her daughter, 21-month-old Leticia, to the clinic in January after she began showing signs of malnutrition, a life-threatening condition if not treated.

Because of her severe condition, Leticia was immediately admitted to the outpatient therapeutic feeding programme. With this life-saving treatment, Leticia began to improve; her condition was reclassified from ‘severe’ to ‘moderate’ and in February she was transferred to the centre’s supplementary feeding programme to ensure she continued to recover.

"Things changed when I brought Leticia to Nkhoma Hospital…My whole family has benefited from her becoming healthy again,” says Dorothy. With a healthy child, Dorothy had time to take care of her other children and to work on her maize field to produce food for her family.

To combat increasing malnutrition, the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) is funding WFP and UNICEF to ensure comprehensive nutrition treatment services are available for children and pregnant/breastfeeding women at health facilities in 25 districts affected by food insecurity. In districts with high incidences of HIV and tuberculosis (TB), malnutrition treatment services are also offered to malnourished adults.

The funding helps ensure that children who receive treatment in health centres have access to comprehensive services. Both agencies also ensure that treatment supplies for the two types of malnutrition, moderate and severe, are found in the health facilities, making certain that malnourished patients receive the right treatment at the right time.

“Children who receive both treatments at the same hospital recover faster than those who get the treatments from different hospitals,” says Regina Nthala, assistant nutritionist at Nkhoma Hospital.

As part of the ongoing emergency response to the lean season food insecurity, WFP also works to prevent malnutrition through provision of fortified blended food to all children aged between 6-23 months and pregnant/breastfeeding women in food insecure households. UNICEF conducts nationwide mass screenings for malnutrition, and, with support from DFID, is able to reach almost all children in the 25 districts affected by food insecurity. The screenings enable early identification of malnourished children; the children are then referred to health facilities for appropriate treatment.

Nutrition services offered by the two UN agencies are further enhanced by efforts to ensure that parents have the knowledge they need for their children to grow up healthy and strong. Treatment days at health facilities start with nutrition education on feeding practices (including breastfeeding), maternal health and hygiene and sanitation.

For the 2015/16 lean season in Malawi, WFP and UNICEF have received a total of US$10.9 million from DFID to protect the most vulnerable from food and nutrition insecurity.