Child Malnutrition In Chad Worsened by Traditions

December 23, 2012

(Note: this story was written and distributed by The Associated Press. Many publications picked up the story, including The Huffington Post, which is linked here for its excellent addition of multimedia to the piece).

"Malnutrition is the underlying cause for the deaths of 2.6 million children every year, according to a study published in the scientific journal, The Lancet. That's a third of the global total for children's deaths. At the feeding center in the town of Mao, run by the French aid group Action Against Hunger, a mother has come in carrying a bundle in her arms. When she pulls back the sheet, the health workers gasp. It looks like she has brought in a skeleton. The best predictor for the severity of malnutrition is the circumference of a child's upper arm, the World Health Organization has found over years of responding to famines in Africa. Less than 115 millimeters indicates the child is at risk of imminent death. This child's arms measure just 80 millimeters around. She weighs 5.2 kilograms (11.4 pounds), slightly more than a healthy newborn. She is 3 years old. It takes a moment for the health workers to realize that the little girl, Fatime, has been admitted before. Fatime's short history is a litany of the well-meant customs that get in the way of a child's health, and possibly even her life."