Providing Child Malnutrition Services in Haiti

Haitian children have suffered increasingly from malnutrition over the last decade. To address these needs, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded Santé pour le Développement et la Stabilité d ‘Haiti – (SDSH) project led by Management Sciences for Health (MSH) integrated nutritional monitoring into maternal and child health services in all 147 health centers sponsored by USAID.

After the severe 2008 hurricane season in Haiti, however, many more Haitian children suffered from severe malnutrition. The Management of Severe Acute Malnutrition Program was introduced with additional funding from the USAID, to provide malnutrition services for the affected areas. After the January 2010 earthquake, the program continued to provide nutritional interventions to children in need.

Begining in 2009, advanced therapy for severely malnourished children under the age of 5 was introduced in 20 health facility sites in the 8 areas most affected by the storms. A three-step protocol is used to diagnose and treat malnutrition: affected children are diagnosed and stabilized at a stabilization center; then the child receives Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) as outpatients; and finally, they benefit from a regimen of nutritional supplementation using dry food rations provided by the World Food Program (WFP).

For Ti Jean, an 18-month-old boy, this program saved his life. His mother brought him to the Saint Louis du Nord health center in Haiti – he only weighed 16 pounds and the health workers were able to diagnose him with malnutrition, but were unable to provide services. Ti Jean and his mother were referred to another medical center called House of Hope in La Pointe Beraca Palmistes. The House of Hope received some of the funding and was able to provide malnutrition services to Ti Jean. After only a few weeks of care, he quickly gained weight and became well-nourished.

Through this supplemental program, 14 hurricane affected sites were rehabilitated and 837,000 children benefited from child health services within a year. Over 204,000 children were diagnosed as Low Weight for Age (LWA), with 45,200 (about 5%) suffering from moderate to acute severe malnutrition. Treatment was provided to 3,700 malnourished children (56% girls) and over 16,200 (58% girls) received food supplementation.

SDSH offers a basic integrated package of services in Haiti: maternal and child health care, including growth monitoring, reproductive health, and prevention and control of infectious diseases including HIV & AIDS and tuberculosis.  

SDSH is an MSH-led collaboration of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health/Center for Communications Programs (CCP), AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), JHPIEGO, and Fondation pour la Santé Reproductrice et l’Education Familiale (FOSREF) with USAID, the Government of Haiti, local NGOs, community leaders, and the commercial private sector.

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