Fighting malnutrition in North Cameroon
Free healthcare saving lives
13 month old Vandi won’t remember the difficult start she had in life.
Instead it’s a burden her mother will carry with her always - the fear she felt at the thought of losing her only remaining child to malnutrition.
“She was coughing a lot, had no appetite. When she developed sores on her face I was terrified.”
With her husband in prison, Koyan Deli Mha had to rely on a meagre income from their small farmstead to support their family – a struggle she was slowly losing. She had already lost two of her children to malnutrition – as her youngest daughter started losing weight at 8 months old she knew that they would not be able to afford to pay for the medicine that her daughter so desperately needed.
Food shortages in the Far North Cameroonian region of Mogode are not rare – but with the ongoing conflicts in neighbouring countries and the influx of refugees seeking safety, the situation was particularly hard for those living there. With conditions increasingly difficult International Medical Corps moved to begin providing emergency healthcare and nutrition interventions for those most in need of support across the region.
The humanitarian intervention – which is paid for by the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) – includes a nutrition programme where community health workers conduct routine door to door visits to identify cases of malnourishment in young children. It was during one such visit that Dabou - a health worker in Vandi’s village - visited the little girl in her home and immediately recognised that her life was in danger.
Vandi was taken to a health centre where she was quickly diagnosed with acute malnutrition. As well as being admitted into a therapeutic feeding programme designed to help her gain weight, the little girl was given medicine to treat complications around her condition.
This simple intervention was all she needed. In a matter of days her cough cleared up and her lesions started disappearing.
“She was gaining weight,” Koyan recalls. “It was an enormous relief to see her eating again.”
In addition to free healthcare, Vandi’s mother received financial help with transport fares so that she could get to and from the hospital where her daughter was being treated.
The family were not just supported through their immediate need. Koyan also learned how to maintain Vandi’s health after the treatment and which hygiene practices were important to practice at home – things as simple as correctly storing water for drinking.
Five months later, Vandi is not under threat from malnourishment and her health has improved significantly.
“I am so grateful – without this intervention my child wouldn’t have lived to see her first birthday.