Almost half of all the children in Madagascar under age 5 are stunted due to poor nutrition. Inadequate nutrition in the first few years of a child’s life will have negative, long term physical and mental consequences. A Catholic Relief Services (CRS) development food assistance program funded by USAID aims to combat malnutrition in 592 different villages in Madagascar.
The program works in the most remote regions of Madagascar in areas where poverty and malnutrition are most prevalent. In Ambifotsy, located 57 miles from a paved road in the drought ridden southern-most region of Madagascar, the program holds monthly weighing and monitoring sessions for all the children under age 5 to raise awareness and identify children who are malnourished. During the January session, community health volunteers weighed 14-month-old Jean Clement. At only 15 pounds, he was immediately classified in the “Red Zone” and his parents were asked to enroll him immediately in another program activity, PD Hearth. Little Jean was skin and bones, and so severely malnourished that he did not have the strength to lift his own head. The community of Ambifotsy lacks diversity in available foods and Jean’s mother, Saninae Clement, would feed him mostly cassava and sweet potatoes, both widely available and inexpensive. Clement, 28, did not know how to prepare meals that included other more nutritious ingredients. Jean’s parents agreed to participate in PD Hearth, which identifies existing good hygiene and nutritional practices, and brings mothers together to share these practices.
The PD Hearth sessions last for 12 days and during that time, Jean's mom learned proper hygiene and how to cook new recipes using locally available ingredients. After three days of PD Hearth, Jean was able to hold his own head up. After 12 days, not only had Jean gained two pounds, but he was walking.
Nine months after the PD Hearth sessions, Jean’s family was still preparing the meals they had learned and Jean was rehabilitated and measured in the healthy “Green Zone.” Jean’s mother was so happy with these results that she has become actively involved in educating other woman about the recipes and the importance of a diverse diet. Clement said, “this program created a miracle in my household and my wish is to see the same miracle happen for other malnourished children in my community.”
The program has rehabilitated 9,839 malnourished children to date through PD Hearth activities.
Last updated: April 28, 2014