How we are addressing stunting in Sudan
The World Food Programme (WFP), supported by the European Union is running nutrition centres across eastern Sudan, providing health checks and protein-rich supplementary foods, as well as training on nutrition practices. It’s hard to imagine finding a tiny shelter for nutrition while driving through remote areas in Sudan. In fact, they do exist across all states.
The Story of Saadia and Omran
I could only compare Omran to other babies in the community, but they were the same weight and height. If I didn’t have access to the nutrition centre, I wouldn’t know that Omran is short for his age or why it matters- Saadia Abdalla Al-Zain, mother of Omran
Greeted by familiar faces at the nutrition centre, Saadia Abdalla Al-Zain, mother of seven brings her youngest son Omran, 9 months, to the local centre twice a month.
"I could only compare Omran to other babies in the community, but they were the same weight and height. If I didn’t have access to the nutrition centre, I wouldn’t know that Omran is short for his age or why it matters"
Luckily Saadia has regular access to the centre, where trained staff provide nutritional supplementary food — a blend of cereal packed with essential vitamins — provide education and other preventative measures. Saadia is also a member of the women’s club, an additional service provided by the nutrition centre, where she receives regular sensitization on different activities ranging from hygiene practices, breastfeeding and nutrition.
In the reception area, children are measured for their height and weight, and their ‘Middle Upper Arm Circumference’ (MUAC) is taken. This is an effective way to identify any health changes between visits. Staff often notice that babies born to underweight or stunted mothers are more likely to experience the same issues. Unfortunately, undernutrition becomes something that is passed down from one generation to the next.
Mothers gather and make small talk, while their babies are weighed and health records are checked. There is a strong sense of familiarity between mothers as they arrive with baby in hand, quickly escape from the striking sun and register their attendance. They know the process, suggesting perhaps they have visited the centre many times before.
Interestingly, the nutrition centre also works with traditional healers to educate them on safe nutrition practices. "This has been a really successful way to make sure that the community is receiving similar advice from traditional practices, and in many cases parents are trusting the centre more," said a nutrition staff member. Specifically, this approach has been a good way to help bridge any misconceptions about the role of the centre in the community.
There are currently 2 million children across Sudan, aged 24–59 months, who suffer from stunting, which is when children fail to reach their optimal growth (cognitive and physical). Children in the village tend to be smaller than you’d expect, which makes it difficult to guess the age of babies under 5 years — they all look a slightly similar age at first glance.
Stunting leads to longer-term growth deficiencies and is often due to limited nutritional intake. It also leads to longer term growth and learning deficiencies that are irreversible — leaving only a window of opportunity during the first 2 years of life to ensure children reach their full potential.
Research shows, the most effective interventions for stunting take place during the first 1,000 days of life — from the womb up to 2 years of age. Luckily Saadia has regular access to the centre, where trained staff provide nutritional supplementary food — a blend of cereal packed with essential vitamins — provide education and other preventative measures.
The key here is prevention, so through our education centres we encourage mothers to bring their babies in for regular check-ups and treatment.- Nutrition centre staff member