Droughts across the desert region have destroyed crops and led to serious food shortages. Limited access to basic health care and safe drinking water is making people’s situation there worse. As many as 8,000 children are at risk of life threatening malnutrition, according to the charity, Action Against Hunger.
The Chadian government estimates that two million people or one-fifth of the country's population, mostly in the western region is threatened by the food shortages although some aid agencies reckon that the numbers could be higher. With little local produce on the market, most food is transported from other parts of the country, leading to huge price rises. As a result, many parents are unable to feed their children.
One year-old Adam Abdulai can barely move, let alone stand up and walk. He’s one of a dozen emaciated children at a United Nations feeding centre in Mao, western Chad. "We didn't have much food when I was pregnant. I was eating boule [millet-based paste] once or twice a day during my pregnancy," says Hawa, Adam's mother. "I got very sick and weak after the birth. I could not breastfeed him properly. At the centre they have told us how important it is to breastfeed," she told the United Nations news service, IRIN.
The feeding centre gives Hawa therapeutic milk so that she can feed Adam every three hours. Days later, Adam has been brought back to life. He is alert and able to move his tiny hands. "Without the therapeutic feeding centre here, there would be a lot more deaths and an even bigger catastrophe," says Chief District Medical Officer Dr. Mekonyo Kolmain Gedeon. "We can see the change in health with children admitted. After only a few weeks ... they are able to go home. "These feeding centres are a critical lifeline for children living in this region. We need more of these centres in order to save more lives," he adds. There are about 32 feeding centres across the affected region set up by the Chadian Ministry of Health and backed by The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to give medical treatment and hand out therapeutic food. "At the moment, we have 2,800 children benefitting from the programme," says UNICEF Representative in Chad Marzio Babille. "While severe acute malnutrition is an emergency, a rapid response with appropriate medical care and technology can save lives."
By Hayley Jarvis for SOS Children