A small child plays with toys while her mother sits behind her

Stimulation therapy prevents development delays amid food crisis

In Ethiopia, children are increasingly facing food insecurity. Humanity & Inclusion uses stimulation therapy to prevent development delays for children experiencing malnourishment.

The Horn of Africa is experiencing one of the worst droughts the area has ever seen. In Ethiopia alone, more than 8 million people have been affected and over 17 million people are in need of agricultural support. 4 million livestock have been lost, and 30 million more are at risk of starvation, further reducing food sources. Additionally, the average price of food items has increased by 40% since 2019.

“When children face malnutrition, it is highly likely that they will suffer developmental delay,” explains Gadisa Obsi, a physical therapist with Humanity & Inclusion in Ethiopia. “They may have difficulty performing daily activities compared to other children of the same age. Malnutrition can also lead to disability in the long term.”

Preventing long-term consequences

Humanity & Inclusion is present in the largest refugee camp in Gambella, Ethiopia, supporting displaced children with developmental delays resulting from malnutrition.

Complementary to nutrition support provided by Humanity & Inclusion partners, stimulation therapy uses play-based rehabilitation exercises to strengthen child development and prevent the disabilities that might occur as a result of malnutrition.

Obsi and his team identify children in need in the community, provide therapy sessions and do as much follow-up as possible. They also inform caregivers about early-childhood development and the importance of early exposure to stimulated play and human interactions in physical and cognitive development.

Making a difference

Nyatut Tholbok is is an 18-month-old child originally from South Sudan. She’s living as a refugee in Gambella with her mother, Nyabem Kher. When she first met Humanity & Inclusion’s team, Nyatut showed signs of severe malnutrition, and her motor skills had suffered tremendously. She struggled to stand on her own, or even to crawl like other children her age. With Humanity & Inclusion’s ongoing therapy sessions and nutrition assistance from partner Action Against Hunger, Nyatut has made noticeable improvements in her follow-up sessions. She has already begun to stand and continues to improve her mobility.

“The impact on the life of the child, their family and the community is immense,” Obsi explains. “We are so proud to have been successful in preventing developmental delay for many children while they were recovering from malnutrition.”

These activities are funded by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration.