Those who suffer from undernourishment are more vulnerable to infections and diseases like malaria. Due to the country Chad’s lack of health care, frequent droughts and lack of access to safe drinking water, 790,000 citizens need emergency food assistance, while three million are in need of humanitarian assistance in general. The country is believed to have the highest rate of malnutrition in West Africa compared to its other impoverished countries.
According to a SMART nutrition survey, the child malnutrition rates in 2014 were between 6.8 and 13.3 percent. Those living in the Sahelian area of Chad experienced the worst: five regions in that area exceeded a 10 percent rate, and six regions exceeded a 15 percent rate of malnutrition. Fifteen percent is considered the minimal rate needed to declare a hunger emergency. It should be noted that contributing to these malnutrition rates are refugees from the Central African Republic and Sudan. There are up to 450,000 who have pursued safety in Chad, and while there has been no official survey conducted yet, up to 14 percent of child refugees at just a few refugee sites have been screened as “acutely malnourished.”
Chad’s traditional health services are underwhelming, with less than one qualified person who can provide medical aid for every 1,000 people. The government allocates a mere three percent of its budget toward health initiatives. This has prompted outside help to intervene in this dire situation.
While there are a few programs to provide medical aid to those suffering in hunger, the problem will not be solved until the core issue of poverty is looked at. According to Richard Currie of Médecins Sans Frontières, or MSF, five percent of children die in their care—and those are the ones receiving treatment.
“It is tremendously rewarding to discharge a previously critically ill child from our program as ‘cured,’ but in the absence of adequate nutrition in the home and an improved food security situation in the community, the child remains at risk of falling back into illness later and eventually re-entering the program,” Currie explained.
Other organizations lending a hand are UNICEF and the U.N. World Food Programme, which are trying to distribute food and introduce programs that will help citizens before emergency medical treatment is required. WFP claims to have targeted 1.3 million citizens in 2014. Nourishment rates in 2014 showed improvement compared to previous years, and hopefully the intervention of all these organizations will improve the rates even more for 2015.
– Melissa Binns