MSF Communications Officer Charlotte Morris spent two weeks in the Bokoro region of Chad, 300km east of the nation’s capital, N’djamena. She was there to gather interviews, photos, and video that MSF can use to communicate with the public about the malnutrition crisis in the country. Whilst there, she noted the increasing number of cases related to malnutrition, specifically among children under the age of five.
When Charlotte first arrived to visit an outpatient clinic, she was overwhelmed by roughly 400-500 mothers, all with malnourished babies. She was ready to begin conducting interviews with the young mothers about the crisis. Understandably, many mothers did not want to speak to Charlotte, for various reasons. Until she met Hawa.
At 29 years old, Hawa was visiting the clinic because her seven months old daughter, Mikaela, was extremely malnourished and had a respiratory illness. She decided to visit the MSF clinic because she was told that there were people there giving out ‘Plumpy Nut’, in addition to helping Mikaela with her health problems.The good news for Hawa was that Mikaela was now better. Her respiratory infection cleared, she no longer had diarrhea, and she gained enough weight to be discharged from the clinic. Unfortunately, many children were not so lucky.
Many of the children’s health was so bad, that they needed to be moved to outpatient clinics, anywhere from a half and hour to three hours away. To Charlotte, it was shocking to see so many others who had sick children, refuse care. However, many of these young mothers have seen some kids recover by themselves, so they did not need outpatient. Additionally, these mother, often times, have other children at home to take care off, so the time and distance commitments seemed all too yielding.
By the end of her two weeks, it was clear to Charlotte that the malnutrition crisis in Chad is not a one-off emergency, it’s chronic.These cases are not only caused by lack of food due to harsh conditions, but also lack of education as to what to feed the children and the importance of hygiene. Overshadowing all of that, there are various cultural practices that can make vulnerable, malnourished children more ill.
It’s a huge challenge for MSG to attempt to tackle, but if it were not for the perseverance of the MSF staff and the resilience of mothers and their children, this crisis would certainly worsen. As someone said to Charlotte while she was there, “you’ve got to be tough to live in Chad.”