Around 1 out of 3 children in the Gushegu district is suffering from malnutrition, and yet there is no famine here. The land is plentiful, the soil is fertile, and a healthy diet can be obtained using local foods. Malnutrition is predominantly a result of a lack of knowledge about how to provide a balanced diet and when to begin complementary feeding (in addition to breastfeeding at 6 months). Neesim Nutrition Centre was set up in 2009 and rehabilitates malnourished children, alongside educating their mothers on healthy nutrition, hygiene and other health-related issues. So far over 400 children have had a second chance at life through Neesim Nutrition Centre.
Malnutrition is one of the biggest health hazards for unders-5’s in Northern Ghana. Though it does not appear on the top 10 causes of death, it is the underlying cause of many of these diseases and is therefore a silent killer. In the Gushegu district, roughly 1 in 3 children under 5 are malnourished, and 1 in 10 are severely malnourished and at risk of death.
Various factors contribute to the high prevalence of malnutrition, but there are two key factors:
1) most mothers don’t know that from 6 months on a child needs supplementary feeding, not only breastmilk;
2) most people don’t know about the 3 main food groups (carbohydrates, fruit and vegetables, and proteins) and do not realise the great nutritious value of certain foods they look down upon (beans, wild fruits and local leafy vegetables) or foods such as soya beans which are grown only as cash crops to sell.
Neesim Nutrition centre
Neesim Nutrition Centre was opened in September 2009 to offer rehabilitation to malnourished children, and education to their mothers on healthy nutrition and other health-related topics.
The majority of the children treated at Neesim Nutrition Centre are between 1 and 3 years old and suffer either from body wasting due to the late introduction of complementary feeding or the failure to provide a balanced diet, or oedema (body swelling) due to a specific lack of protein. However we have also begun to treat an increasing number of small babies whose mothers have died or are unable to breastfeed.
Over 400 mothers and children have come to stay at the centre. Most stay for an average of 6 weeks and the transformation in the children can be incredible. Children, like Adisah* who were at death’s door when they arrived, become plump and healthy, simply through a specially balanced diet to help their weak bodies to recover.
Or consider Baby Latif* whose mother had a breast infection and was unable to breast feed. The difference between these two photos is just three weeks!
Just as importantly, after attending education sessions each day, and living this out at the centre, the mothers leave equipped to provide a balanced diet for their families in the future, and to share what they have learned with family and friends at home.
Furthermore we do regular outreaches to different villages in the district to educate the local people, gradually reducing the rate of malnutrition in Gushegu district. Recently we also conducted cooking demonstrations to teach people how to make use of some highly nutritious locally-available foods. You can read more about the cooking demonstrations here.
Can you help?
It costs £150 to rehabilitate one child at Neesim Nutrition Centre. Could you help us to give a malnourished child a second chance at life?
The Nutrition Centre asks only for a small contribution of grains from the mothers as this makes our service accessible to all. We rely on donations from the UK, Holland, Germany and the US. Any amount you can give, big or small, is much appreciated and makes a real difference. We especially value regular monthly donations which help us to plan ahead. You can find out how to donate by clicking here.
You can read the stories of some of the children whose lives have been transformed through Neesim Nutrition Centre by following the links below.
Read more about the health situation in Gushegu district here.
* Names changed to protect identity.