Burkina Faso Fights Drought with Knowledge
Nutrition programs improve health in small Sahel region country
Courtesy of UNifeed
As drought ravages food supplies in Africa’s Sahel region, the threat of malnutrition is growing for millions, many of them young children. In Burkina Faso, a small landlocked country in the heart of West Africa, malnutrition is one of the biggest killers of children under the age of five – but this bleak reality could be changing. UNICEF, in cooperation with the European Union, the government of Burkina Faso, and local NGO’s, is working to educate farmers and consumer in the country to ensure that they have access to better quality food, and more of it.
“In nutritional education there is education, feeding demonstration, and we get the mother to make the food so that they can apply the lesson back home,” says Cecile Beloum Ouedraogo, the President of one Burkina Faso’s NGOs that has teamed up with UNICEF. “We have seen very positive results. Thanks to nutritional education, testing and diagnosing, classes for mothers, we have seen the rate of malnutrition drop in the area we work.”
Every day, Burkinabes are given lessons at markets, in schools, and in their homes about the importance of maintaining a balanced diet, and eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables in addition to the millet-heavy regime that they are used to. They are also taught the importance of breastfeeding, and the long term positive effects that it has on child development. This education can have a tremendous impact in people’s lives, especially the young.
One woman who has seen a direct, positive effect of this program is Mamounata Kabore, the mother of one child who has used its services. “Now it is not like it used to be,” she reports. “Before, kids were sick a lot. The kids were catching infections from the mothers feeding them incorrectly. Sometimes they would even die from it. Today with women practicing exclusive breastfeeding, the children are healthy and they don't get sick as much."
This program is in effect in almost 15,000 villages in Burkina Faso, reaching an estimated 75,000 pregnant women and 145,000 breastfeeding mothers. UNICEF and its partners hope to be able to replicate its successes and spread them elsewhere, both in the Sahel and beyond.