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Malnutrition in Angola

Location: Hospital Central do Cunene, Cunene Angola

Marcelino just turned one but there is no celebrating of first words or first steps. Marcelino is severely malnourished. He doesn’t have the strength to do what other one year olds can do. Without treatment, Marcelino could die.

Marcelino lives in Angola’s Cunene Province, an area that has been particularly hard hit by the recurrent cycles of droughts and floods that characterize El Nino. This has seriously affected food supply.

Rates of malnutrition in children like Marcelino have doubled over the last six months. He is just one of 95,877 children with severe acute malnutrition in the country’s most affected provinces. All indicators suggest the situation is only going to get worse.

His mother, Ndahalouanu, says, “He got so sick. I was really worried. I thought he was going to die.” She brought him to the local clinic five days ago, where he was immediately admitted into a therapeutic treatment programme.

The drought isn’t the only story here. The ongoing decline in the price of oil combined with lower crop yields have contributed to an economic crisis in Angola. The increasing rates of inflation have meant a sharp rise in the cost of food. Quite simply, hard-working families are finding it impossible to make ends meet.

Despite working long hours in her job as a maid and domestic helper for the past month, Ndahalouanu’s employer simply hasn’t paid her a salary.

“Now the things we buy are much more expensive. It’s harder now. Everything is harder, and I don’t know why,” she said.

Mom, Ndahalouanu, is a single mother who’s been struggling to pay the bills for Marcelino and his four siblings since their father left. He worked making doors and doing odd jobs when he could. Though his income was small, the family is missing it. Despite everything, she keeps their simple one-room, dirt floor home of corrugated iron spotlessly clean.

After five days of treatment with therapeutic milk, and a steady rise in his weight, clinic staff determine that Marcelino’s condition is improving.

Marcelino has none of the complications they’ve come to recognize in other children with severe acute malnutrition. No edema. No diarrhea. While it might not feel like it, Marcelino is one of the lucky ones.

Before he can be released, they’ll need to introduce Ready to Use Therapeutic food to Marcelino. This high protein peanut paste is packed with calories and nutrients and will help Marcelino continue his journey toward a healthy weight. Some mothers call it miracle food.

The appetite taste is a success. Marcelino loves it. Mom Ndahalouanu is visibly relieved.

Mom and Marcelino are given fourteen packs of this therapeutic food and lessons in how to administer the treatment. He’ll have two packs a day for a week, before he returns to the clinic for a progress check.

“I’m so happy to be bringing him home,” Mom Ndahalouanu says. “I have my boy back.”

Donations to UNICEF save lives. Your support helps children like Marcelino recover from sever acute malnutrition.

What UNICEF is doing for children like Marcelino in Angola:

UNICEF will support the Government of Angola to focus on providing life-saving support to children like Marcelino affected by El Nino.

This includes:

• Ensuring that centres for the Community Management of Acute Malnutrition are fully operational in the most affected areas, so children at risk are identified and treated locally before it’s too late.
• The training of additional care providers in the screening, referral and treatment of children like Marcelino with Severe Acute Malnutrition.
• The provision of Ready to Use Therapeutic food for 37,835 children.
• The counselling of 707,765 caregivers of children under two in good nutrition and health practices to reinforce positive community actives and ensure the timely referral of children at risk to health centres.

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