On 15 and 16 November, a team of Save the Children (with Benjamin « Collins » Tarlue and myself) and AIBEF, a partner NGO, organised a screening of malnourished children in the health center of Nidrou, a village close to the Mont Peko National Park. Part of this Park, covering 30,000 ha of forest, is illegally occupied since about 20 years by mainly people from Burkina Faso. During the post-election period (2010-2011) a burkinabé warlord, Amedé Orémi, was responsible for the killings and violence against the autochthonous population in the villages surrounding the area, to get their land. In May 2013, Orémi was arrested, and a census and an investigation about the situation were carried out. The 14,000 people (50% children) living in the park had to leave the area on 30 September at the latest. But it was only until recently that these persons slowly started leaving the area. These people don’t have a place to live or where to go, no income besides their fields in the park, and the villages in the surroundings are mainly hostile to receive them. This situation is causing big health problems, including malnutrition among children and women. These same days, also health workers from the Duekoué sanitary district screended children of 6-59 months old in the area between the villages Guinglo Zia and Ponan Vahi, to identify malnourished children. The zone of Nidrou is an hour driving on a bad track, and is known for the “coupeurs de route”, gangs who stop cars to steal everything, and even sometimes kill people. So not a place to stay late in the evening!
On the first day, after our arrival in Nidrou, there were already a lot of women and children waiting at the health center. Once the sound system was installed and the music was playing, we started with the screening of the children. First, the middle upper arm circumference (MUAC) was measured. A MUAC higher than 125 mm is good, but a MUAC between 125 and 115 mm indicates Moderate Acute Malnutrition (MAM), while a MUAC ≤ 115 mm means Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM). We also took the height and weight of the children. Based on these 2 parameters, the Z-score can be calculated. A Z-score <-2 indicates a MAM, and a Z-score <-3 means a SAM. That day, 100 children have been checked. Not an easy task, with the mothers sometimes waiting for hours and all the children running around.
On the second day there was market, so we decided to combine 2 activities: a mass sensibilisation and a screening. Community health workers from Bagohouo, a neighbouring village, and Nidrou explained to the public (mainly women waiting for the screening) different aspects of nutrition and the importance to prepare balanced and varied food for their family. These presentations were done in 4 languages: french, guéré, baoulé and mossi. While this was ongoing, we started measuring the MUAC, height and weight of the children. One serious case was detected: a boy of 8 months old with a MUAC of 85 and a weight of 3.7 kg. Because of the seriousness, in the evening mother and child went with us by car to the specialized nutrition unit of Duekoué for an intense follow-up. After a few days she left because she did not have money to pay the medicines (treatment is normally free, but the products are seldom available! In that case you have to pay it yourself) and to pay for her own food. Luckily, the project covers such cases. She returned to the hospital and her son is improving now, as you can see on the pictures.
During both days in Nidrou, 168 children between 6 months and 5 years were checked, and 47 were identified as being malnourished (31 MAM and 16 SAM). The majority of women who came to the consultations were from burkinabé origin. Probably most of them came from the Mont Peko area. For the 4 villages where children were screened, Bagohouo, Guinglo Zia, Nidrou et Ponan Vahi, 88 malnourished children were identified (62 MAM and 26 SAM). In total 1234 children were controlled.
The child on the pictures hereunder was transferred to the specialized nutritional unit at Duekoué due to SAM and medical complications.
The child after 7 days of treatment