The ‘nutrition counsellors’ fighting hunger in Djibouti

“We have noticed more cases of malnutrition amongst children during the drought and since prices have increased”

WFP_Africa
World Food Programme Insight

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Fatouma (L), Saida (C) and Zenab are part of a 200-strong network of ‘counselling mothers’ providing nutrition advice to 5,000 women in Djibouti. Photo: WFP/Lina Mustapha

By Lina Mustapha

Fatouma, Saida and her daughter Zenab are ‘counselling mothers’ working in the village of Wea in the East African country of Djibouti.

Using illustrative booklets to share good nutrition practices, providing dietary advice, and referring malnourished mothers and children to health centres for supplementary feeding, these mothers are the first line of defence against malnutrition in the country.

Almost 200,000 people (16 percent of the population) are food insecure in Djibouti. A severe drought caused by five consecutive failed rainy seasons and rising costs of food and energy are compounding existing shocks such as poverty and the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Food prices have increased by an average of 10 percent since January 2023, putting basic meals out of reach of many rural and drought-affected families who have little or no income.

“We have noticed more cases of malnutrition amongst children during the drought and since prices have increased,” says Saida. “In Wea, we consider each other as family, and we feel a duty to provide our people with advice that can improve their health and nutrition.”

Fatouma, Saida and Zenab are the first line of defence against malnutrition in the country. Photo: WFP/Lina Mustapha

Supported by the World Food Programme (WFP) in partnership with Djibouti’s Social Development Agency (ADDS), Fatouma, Saida and Zenab are part of a 200-strong network of mothers who provide nutrition support to 5,000 women across the country. Selected on the basis of their reputations and influence within their communities, they are a vital link between food insecure communities and the health centres.

“We do house visits and organize focus groups to share good nutritional habits with the women and their children,” says Zenab. “We refer people to the health centres if we see signs of malnutrition and we regularly follow up to ensure they are getting better.”

The provision of supplementary feeding and nutrition related awareness initiatives are in response to both the drought and the rising cost of living and have been made possible by generous funding from the Government of France.

In partnership with ADDS — under the direction of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Solidarity (MASS) — and in collaboration with the Ministry of Health’s National Nutrition Programme, WFP will implement the initiatives in the regions of Dikhil, Obock, Ali Sabieh, Tadjourah and Arta.

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