MAP’s impact: Combating malnutrition in Gaza

MAP

18 November 2016

In June 2017, Israel’s blockade and closure of Gaza will enter its 10th year.  A decade of restriction has placed huge obstacles to the movement of people and goods in and out of Gaza, and badly damaged Gaza’s economy. Poverty is high, and unemployment is at 42%, rising to nearly 60% for young people.

As a result, many of Gaza’s almost 2 million residents struggle to afford the nutritious food their families need. Gaza’s children are the most affected, and many are at risk of chronic malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies which can stunt development and affect health.

Since April 2013 MAP has worked to address this issue through our support to a nutritional support clinic in the southern area of Gaza, run by local partner NGO Ard El Insan (AEI). This clinic identifies and provides support for a variety of conditions and illnesses linked to malnutrition, including wasting, anaemia, rickets, and coeliac disease.

As well as providing essential medical care, the project distributes dry food packages, provides fresh meals and supplements, and runs health education and awareness sessions for food preparation. Currently more than 740 Gazan children and their families are benefitting directly from the nutritional support provided by this project.  Here are two examples of how, thanks to the support of people like you, this clinic’s staff are changing lives and restoring health for Palestinians in Gaza:

Anees* is a baby boy from Khan Younis, aged about ten months, who was admitted to the Ard El Insan clinic in July 2016.  He is the youngest child in a family of five.

His father is partially employed but his limited income is not enough to meet the family’s basic needs. They live with extended family, all occupying only one room. Anees was seen in the AEI clinic and diagnosed with severe anemia, moderate wasting, and mild growth faltering. He also showed signs of loss of appetite and limited physical movement.

He was referred to the feeding unit for follow-up, where staff realised that he was struggling to eat enough to gain weight. His mother was unsure how to feed him the diet he needed and had become distressed about her child’s health. AEI’s staff discussed with his mother affordable, healthy options and together they planned a diet rich in fruit and vegetables for Anees.

The staff in charge of the feeding unit were also able to use their experience to reduce the mother’s worries and fears, through group sessions and by showing her the progress made by other children who had suffered similar conditions.

Anees had eight meals in the centre made up of fresh food, vegetables, rice and lentils with bulgur wheat. He also received 12 kg of high nutrient biscuits as well as six dry food packages. Anees’s mother attended five health and nutrition education sessions on anemia, supplementary feeding, rickets, and diarrhea. Anees’s general health, haemoglobin levels, weight, and appetite all improved when checked at later follow-up appointments.

Rima* is a 22-year-old woman with coeliac disease, and a mother of one.  She was transferred from the Indonesian Hospital in the north of Gaza to the AEI clinic. Her husband works as a barber,  however the family has a very limited income.  Rima suffered from diarrhea when she was two years old and was treated at the time at Ard El Insan and was diagnosed at the time with ‘malabsorption’, which is similar to coeliac disease in signs and symptoms.  After she gave birth to her first child, however, the signs and symptoms she suffered from previously came back.

She came to AEI suffering from severe gastro-intestinal problems as well as pain in her limbs, dizziness, headaches, weight loss, hair and nail loss and general lethargy. Those symptoms have also affected Rima’s psychological status, and she was unable to breastfeed her baby. Laboratory investigations at the clinic indicated confirmed a diagnosis of celiac disease.

Rima was referred for individual counselling sessions to support her on diet, how to take care of herself, and how to prepare food.  She began eating well and her condition started to improve from her second visit. She was encouraged to increase her calcium intake as it had also been low. She also received Zimacal, a tablet containing calcium, magnesium and zinc, all essential minerals for the body, and after some weeks she showed excellent progress.

Rima also attended group discussions with other adult patients where they shared their experiences. This played a significant role in the improvement of her condition, and she became committed to her visit schedule at AEI, and she reports that the wellbeing of her whole family has improved.

*Names changed to protect identities

 If you would like to support MAP’s work in Gaza, please consider making a donation today.

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