Kissito-Plan International partnership to benefit 3,500 malnourished children

Kissito has received a grant from Plan International to work under the Emergency Nutrition Coordination Unit (sector of Ethiopian federal government) on a Support for Community Management of Acute Malnutrition Project in Southern Ethiopia. Kissito’s purpose is to strengthen the government response to acute malnutrition in this area. The project is benefitting over 3,500 children under five years old and almost 1,000 pregnant and lactating women (those who have been lactating one year or less). In KHI’s initial assessment, 21.3 percent of children under five in this area were found to be suffering from moderate or severe acute malnutrition.

Malnutrition is the symptom of some larger “diseases” such as population pressure, chronic food shortage, small farm land-holding size, agricultural cultivation limitations due to poor purchasing power of the farmers, poor practice of food conservation, land degradation, crop diseases like ‘nech wag’, declining productivity, and inaccessibility during rainy seasons due to muddy and unusable roads.

Kissito International is supporting three components of the government intervention:

Stabilization Center / Therapeutic Feeding Unit: For children with moderate and severe acute malnourishment who need to be stabilized and treated for related medical complications on an in-patient basis.

Outpatient Therapeutic Program: For provision of ready-to-use therapeutic foods (such as Plumpy’nut or others) for mothers to feed malnourished children at home in the community.

Targeted Supplementary Feeding Program: Identifying malnourished and at-risk children under five, and pregnant/lactating women (PLW) to come to a location two times per month to receive a ration of grains and oil.

Working with Massachusetts General Hospital and the Harvard Initiative to End Child Malnutrition, KHI will be going out into remote kebeles (villages), assessing the under-five and PLW population, and bringing the most severely malnourished to stabilization centers. Once they are stabilized, they will go home with a ration of ready-to-use therapeutic foods and be asked to come back to the center in two months for recovery assessment. Others at risk will be told when and where to go to receive a ration of grains and oil. This will be available only for those that fall under the requirements of the Targeted Supplementary Feeding Program.

Another important component is that KHI is training the local Health Extension Workers (HEWs – first-line health workers who people go to for basic preventative care) and the Community Health Army (volunteer health promoters) to identify the signs of malnourishment, understand when and how to refer acutely malnourished children and mothers, and how to educate mothers and families in proper nutrition.

Prior to the agreement being signed December 2, 2011, KHI hired a nutrition supervisor and logistician who have been on-site since September, and began treating a few patients with severe acute malnourishment at the stabilization centers. KHI has also been building capacity at the stabilization centers (which are located in existing health centers) and training community health workers.

Though KHI had not yet received the funding from Plan International, it proceeded to use its own money to build capacity so that when the agreement was finalized, KHI could instantly break ground. As such, Kissito is ready to save lives effective now, as opposed to other organizations who may have had to, or chosen to, wait to receive funding before equipping the stabilization centers. Now that funding is available from Plan International, KHI is currently mobilizing the grains and oil (provided by Plan International) and implementing all of the three programs outlined above.

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