The United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) office in The Gambia recently supported the government of the Gambia to respond to the situation of severe malnutrition of children, with a presentation of highly nutritious products. The donated items included 1051 cartons of BP100 (plumpy-nut in tablet form), and 600 cartons of plumpy-nut (in spread form) as 'ready- to- usetherapeutic food' (RTUTF), earmarked to treat severe and acute malnourished children for a period of six to eight weeks.
The donation, received on behalf of the government by the minister of Health and Social Welfare, Fatim Badjie, was delivered at the Central Medical Store in Kotu. The gesture has come at a timewhen the country reels from the impact of last year's crop failure, in which 70 percent of the total crop production was lost due to poorly distributed or erratic rainfall, which apparently caused food insufficiency at the household level and created room for malnutrition.
Speaking at the occasion, Minister Fatim Badjie commended Unicef for this intervention, while reminding that the president had earlier on declared food insecurity in the country due to crop failure experienced during last year's farming season. "Gambians and their partners are aware that the government has been coordinating every aspect of donor assistance and interventions that will really scale up a positive impact on what we are facing at the moment, which is the food insecurity," she stated.
The Health minister asserted that in the area of health, nutrition is a key element that is aversely affected by food insecurity. She said: "When we talk about malnourishment it aversely affects children under the age of five and pregnant mothers, and we are here to witness this donation for children under the age of five."
The Unicef country representative to the Gambia, Aichatou Diawara Flambert, for her part, said the Fund was responding to the matter by supporting the government of The Gambia to scale up the response to the plight of severe malnourished children. She explained that the plumpy-nut is a highly nutritious ready-to-use therapeutic food purposely designed for the rehabilitation of the nutritional status of malnourished children, while adding that plumpy-nut also contains vegetable oil, milk powder, vitamins and minerals.
The food items, she further explained, can be consumed at home and cost less than the fortified milk formulas, which were used in the past years in an attempt to curb malnutrition. She went on: "The BP100 is a highly nutritiousfood that is made from wheat, flour, vegetable oil, sugar, milk, proteins, and skimmed milk powder fortified with minerals and vitamins. This product is developed for use in feeding centers or given to families as a take-home. It can be eaten as a biscuit directly from the pack or crumbled into water and eaten as porridge."
The Unicef chief used the opportunity to inform that the Fund works in 190 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive from early childhood through adolescence, noting that it is as well the world's largest provider of vaccines for developing countries.
"Unicef supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS," she concluded.
Also speaking at the occasion, the executive director of the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA), Essa Khan said this intervention will focus on the most affected areas that suffered from the 2011 crop failure in the country, while acknowledging the interventions made by other UN agencies.
Khan reported that the outcome of the multi-sectoral report has revealed that children under five and 18 are those severely affected, thus describing this intervention as something crucial that will go a long way in lessening the impact. The director of the National Nutrition Agency (NaNA), Pa Modou Phall, also spoke at the occasion and shared similar sentiments.