A young Black boy wearing a blue shirt with flowers looks straight ahead

Stimulation therapy helps children experiencing malnutrition

Malnutrition prevented Pal from developing like other children his age. With Humanity & Inclusion’s nutrition support and stimulation therapy, Pal can now sit, stand and walk on his own.

11-month-old Pal and his mother, Nyayual, 34, live in the Nguenyyiel refugee camp, in Gambella, Ethiopia. Originally from Nasir, South Sudan, Nyayual was forced to flee her home in 2017 due to war and unstable conditions. After leaving her husband behind in the conflict, Nyayual is raising her five children as a single mother in the camp and working as a cleaner.

Living in the refugee camp, Nyayual is faced with a lack of resources, insufficient finances and increasing drought, all of which make it difficult to access food and nutrition for her children.

Malnutrition has a particularly strong impact on babies and young children, like Pal, who are still developing their minds and bodies. Malnutrition and undernutrition are major factors in child mortality, illness and disability. Children may show delays in motor and cognitive development, associated with behavioral and communication problems. These can consolidate over time and lead to irreversible disabilities if left untreated. Most neurological disorders related to malnutrition are preventable.

“I was worried a lot about my baby,” Nyayual says. “His growth rate was slow and he was unable to sit up without support like other children his age.”


Overcoming developmental challenges

Nyayual brought her son to Humanity & Inclusion to begin stimulation therapy sessions and to receive emergency nutrition supplies. Early childhood stimulation therapy for children experiencing malnourishment stimulates motor skills and cognitive development through personalized care and playing with toys. Humanity & Inclusion’s rehabilitation specialists developed the therapy to use alongside emergency nutrition initiatives, rehydration and essential medical care to give children the best chance of survival, resilience and an improved quality of life.

After attending sessions with his mother, Pal began to show improvements. He can now sit without any support, stand by himself and he has recently started walking independently. Nyayual also learned skills to continue Pal’s progress at home.

“Being able to play with his peers and siblings at home also helps Pal to improve his social interactions and learn some gestures, which improves his language skills,” explains Gadisa Obsi, a physical therapist for Humanity & Inclusion in Ethiopia.

It’s been five months since Pal’s family began receiving nutritional support from Humanity & Inclusion, and Nyayual says she is very pleased with her son’s performance, which now fits with his age group. Pal’s favorite activities are dancing and “playing drums” by beating on household objects. His favorite food is mashed potatoes with milk.

“My ultimate goal is to see him go to school,” Nyayual says. “I hope one day he can become an educated person who will bring real change for our family.”

These actions are funded by the United States Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, and implemented by Action Against Hunger, Humanity & Inclusion and other partner organizations.

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