Theater Engages Mothers in Mauritania to Help Children Thrive
Editor's Note: Action Against Hunger believes that every child – regardless of where he or she is born – should have adequate nutrition and as few obstacles as possible in their path to reaching their full potential. This article is part of our May series – Healthy Moms, Healthy Kids – celebrating Mother's Day by highlighting the strength of mothers around the world. Watch for one more story later this month.
All photographs are courtesy of Sylvain Chekoui for ECHO, DFID, and Action Against Hunger-Mauritania.
A story in photos
Scarce rainfall, poor harvests, and a shortage of affordable, basic staple foods in markets have contributed to increasing levels of undernutrition among children in Guidimakha, Mauritania. For many mothers here, making ends meet is a daily struggle. Thanks to the generous support of the Department for International Development (DFID) in the UK and the European Union's Humanitarian Aid & Civil Protection Department (ECHO), Action Against Hunger is providing services to prevent hunger and deliver lifesaving treatment to children suffering from undernutrition.
“My daughter Khadidja was seriously ill,” said 33-year-old Fatima, pictured above, when leaving Action Against Hunger’s nutrition center. "I took her to a healer in the village, but her condition worsened. My neighbors advised me to take her to the Agoinitt Health Post, where she was immediately referred to the nutrition center. There she received treatment and now, by the grace of God, she has recovered."
Our teams of nutrition experts detect, treat, and prevent deadly undernutrition in children so they can regain their health and fulfill their potential. Action Against Hunger screened one-year-old Rabia and determined that she was suffering from acute undernutrition. Rabia's mother Hassin, above, received a supply of ready-to-use therapeutic food, rich in protein and micronutrients, that she can take home to feed Rabia until her next scheduled visit with the health workers, who will carefully treat and monitor Rabia's condition until she is fully recovered.
Action Against Hunger health worker Awa Cheikkhna weighs Rabia, above, and measures her height. Awa assesses Rabia's weight-for-height to determine whether she exhibits signs of "wasting" and acute undernutrition.
Action Against Hunger screens children for undernutrition by gauging their weight in relation to their height—and comparing both against healthy "indicators" for children. Assessing a child's height, weight, and the measurement of the circumference of their mid-upper arm are part of the process of screening children for undernutrition.
Our teams are also working with partners to help improve the health of the mothers themselves, especially women who are pregnant. Yero Barry, the head nurse at the Ould Mbonny Health Center supported by Action Against Hunger says, “This year, seven pregnant women in our community died due to the isolation of the area and the lack of an ambulance. I welcome Action Against Hunger’s plans to open mobile clinics in the region so mothers and their children will have access to the health care they urgently need."
Our efforts to ensure that children and mothers enjoy healthy futures go beyond providing treatment for undernutrition. We also partner with local theater groups to perform engaging, educational plays. These community dramas teach mothers and caregivers how to recognize the warning signs of undernutrition in young children. Action Against Hunger also organizes community theater performances to prevent undernutrition by educating caregivers about proper infant and young child feeding practices. In the photograph above, members of the Alphas Chapo theater troupe, supported by Action Against Hunger, performed with local children in Keur Samba Kandji village. An Action Against Hunger health worker was so moved by the music, he decided to join the fun.
Fatimatou, above, carefully watches the "health education" theater performance with her child. She says, "Now I pay attention to hygiene not only in food preparation, but also for the whole house. I also make sure my children take all their vaccines so they stay healthy."
Fatoumatou Alissy, above, performs with Action Against Hunger's theater group to help raise awareness of good feeding practices and to educate communities on undernutrition and how to get treatment. In her performances, she uses a doll to demonstrate good care practices. Adequate nutrition in the 1,000 days between pregnancy and a child's second birthday has a profound impact on a child's physical and intellectual development. We are committed to educating communities and caregivers on how to prevent undernutrition in this critical 1,000-day "window of opportunity" to give them every chance to flourish.
With your help, we can give mothers in Guidimakha the tools and knowledge they need to ensure their children survive and thrive.