Sudan: When the community seizes the fight against malnutrition

Acute and chronic malnutrition remains one of the major public health concerns in Sudan. To address emergency food and nutritional needs of families with children diagnosed with malnutrition in Gedaref, eastern Sudan, Première Urgence Internationale involves health volunteers from the community. Rogia is one of them.

Première Urgence Internationale crée une mobilisation communautaire au Soudan

Profile of Rogia, community health volunteer | © Première Urgence Internationale

Rogia is 24 and is originally from the city of Basonda, located in the state of Gedaref, East Sudan. “During the COVID-19 pandemic, I started to be involved with the Ministry of Health in awareness campaigns. Then I heard that Première Urgence Internationale was looking for health volunteers. I did not hesitate since I wanted to pursue my commitment!”

To ensure fair representation, the volunteers are selected directly by different representatives of the locality. After that, they receive training by Première Urgence Internationale staff on the messages to deliver, reporting and data collection techniques, along with communication tips to exchange with the community.

Community health volunteers in Sudan of Première Urgence InternationaleCommunity health volunteers training in Basonda, Gedaref, June 2022 | © Première Urgence Internationale

The significant impact of community mobilization

Volunteers organize household visits, group sessions or directly at the hospital. Rogia explains: “We are 15 volunteers in Basonda and in groups of two, we conduct 2 to 3 sessions per week. We join casual community events such as tea sessions or religious celebrations, so we can reach as many people as possible”. They adapt health promotion to the specific needs of the community: preventive health care services, hygiene, malnutrition, waste management, sexual and reproductive health and vaccination. After only six months, Première Urgence Internationale community volunteers already delivered key messages to 14 311 women and 11 580 men.

Rogia is the first to witness the impact of this community mobilization: “The awareness campaigns we organize are very important. My community does not have all the information about good hygiene, health and nutrition practices. People are generally very curious to listen to us and to discuss these topics.”

The fight against malnutrition as an objective

In addition to raising awareness on health and nutrition, volunteers such as Rogia create a link between the communities and health centres. This allows them to refer the children with signs of malnutrition to nutrition services in supported health facilities. Rogia explains “Every week, we compare the lists of malnutrition cases we have identified in the community and the list of admissions in the nutrition program at hospital. If we see that a family has not been to the hospital, we go back to them to convince them of the importance of continuing their child’s treatment”.

The drivers of malnutrition include low-income poverty, poor hygienic conditions, limited access to health services and health education, high food prices contributing to inadequate food intake and limited dietary diversity. The ongoing socio-economic crisis, food insecurity and limited access to nutritious food, affect children’s growth and development from an early age. Malnutrition is one of the major underlying causes of child mortality and morbidity in Sudan.

“I really like what I am doing with Première Urgence Internationale. It allows me to meet new people and to change perception and practices for a better prevention of diseases and malnutrition. I am grateful for what Première Urgence Internationale is doing for my community”, Rogia concludes.

These activities were made possible with the support of the Comité Interministériel d’aide Alimentaire (CIAA) and the partnership with Solidarités International launched in May 2022. This action strives to strengthen community resilience, promote best practices and raise awareness, to reduce the impact of malnutrition, especially among pregnant mothers and children. Activities are implemented in Basonda and Village 8, targeting around 19 000 people.

Read our articles on community mobilisation.

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