Raising six children
Mireille's mother, Sophie, is raising her family on a single income; her husband is away finishing his studies.
To feed the six children in her care—her own four children and her two younger brothers who she took in when her father died—Sophie runs a small shop from outside her house. But she doesn’t earn enough to feed them all nutritious meals.
Mireille is one of many children being treated at the Notre-Dame-des-Apôtre hospital's outpatient nutrition unit in N'Djamena, where they receive Plumpy'Nut rations from UNICEF—food bars formulated for the nutritional rehabilitation of severely malnourished children and adults.
To complement UNICEF's support, Humanity & Inclusion provides malnourished children with stimulation therapy sessions. The therapy comprises seven sessions designed to stimulate the psychomotor skills of children who have been severely affected by malnutrition.
Mireille has just finished her seventh and final session of stimulation therapy. Sophie reflects on her daughter's sessions with HI’s physical therapist, Angeline:
“At first, Mireille would cry. She was afraid. She didn't even want to enter the room. Angeline was very patient. She reassured her. Now, Mireille is happy as soon as she sees the room, she rushes in and can play non-stop. Before, my daughter had difficulty walking. She could barely stand, and she was very reserved. Now she touches everything. Whenever she sees something, she picks it up and plays with it. She isn't talking yet, but I think that'll come. I'm very proud of my daughter's progress.”
The importance of play
Play is vital for children's psychomotor development. Despite her household chores and business, Sophie still manages to find a little time to devote to her daughter in the mornings and evenings.
As a result, her relationship with Mireille has changed a lot. The playtime spent together has strengthened the bond between mother and daughter:
"Now she cries when I leave the house. Her relationship with her brothers and sisters has changed, too. She's less shy and wants to play with them all the time."
What is stimulation therapy?
Severe malnutrition delays the growth and development of infants and toddlers. These developmental delays can lead to irreversible disabilities if left untreated.
Stimulation therapy complements emergency food aid. It is a set of activities that stimulate children’s motor skills and cognitive development. The therapist uses toys to encourage children to play and gives them individual attention.
Each activity plays a specific role in development: holding a toy above a child's head helps with arm extension while drawing with pens and pencils will help develop a better grip. Simple actions, such as kicking a ball or pushing a plastic car develop movement, interactions and reflexes.
Famine affects many families in Chad
In June 2022, Chad, the third least developed country in the world according to the UN, declared a "food emergency" due to the "steady deterioration in the nutritional situation."
According to the UN, 5.5 million Chadians—more than a third of the population—needed "emergency humanitarian assistance" in 2021. The situation has been worsened by the war in Ukraine and its impact on the global grain trade.
The project is being supported by the German Federal Foreign Office (GFFO) until June 2024.