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Ruth overcomes malnutrition challenges with play therapy

Health Inclusion Prevention Rehabilitation

Humanity & Inclusion is caring for Ruth, 15 months old, who is experiencing the effects of malnutrition, which could irreversibly affect her growth.

© HI

Ruth was just 1 month old when her mother died. She and her other brothers, aged 8 and 5, are cared for by their grandmother, Damaris. Because of his work, their father is unable to look after the children.

The family lives in Toukra, a village about 10 miles from Chad's capital city of N'Djamena. Damaris regularly takes Ruth to a nutrition center in the city by bus, with fares covered by Humanity & Inclusion.

Damaris struggles to feed her grandchildren. Her main source of income comes from a small shop she runs in front of her house, selling dried okra, cowpea seeds and peanut paste.

"If one of us falls ill, I don't have enough money to pay for a doctor and the medicines. We are hungry all the time. I find it very difficult to feed the three children and meet their other needs. Sometimes I don't eat so that they can," she explains.

Since she was 4 months old, Ruth has received a weekly ration of Plumpy'Nut — food bars formulated for the nutritional rehabilitation of children and adults experiencing severe malnutrition — from UNICEF.

To complement UNICEF's support, HI provides malnourished children with stimulation therapy sessions. Over seven sessions, HI's specialists and children do play-based exercises designed to stimulate psychomotor skills and address developmental delays. Ruth completed her sessions this year.

"Before, she couldn't sit up," Damaris recalls of her granddaughter. "She would lie on her back all the time. She was very weak. Now she makes more effort to sit up. She tries to stand on her feet. She plays more and smiles more. She crawls and can pick things up."    

Angeline, the physical therapist who supported Ruth shares her progress.

"She couldn't bend her knees or her arms the first time I saw her, at her diagnosis session. She was very weak. As the sessions progressed, she became much more mobile."

Stimulation therapy promotes development

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 a child to join in and gives them individual attention.

Each activity plays a specific role in development: holding a toy above a child's head will help 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 will help develop movement, interactions and reflexes.

Famine in Chad

In June 2022, Chad declared a "food emergency" due to the "steady deterioration in the nutritional situation." According to the United Nations, 5.5 million Chadians — more than one-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.

HI's actions are supported by the German Federal Foreign Office (GFFO) until June 2024.


Date published: 08/25/23


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