Childhood malnutrition is as dangerous as many diseases. It frequently causes complications like anemia that can lead to organ damage and strain on the heart. And in Gaza, where jobs are scarce and incomes are low, malnutrition is a common problem.
To help combat it, IOCC launched a major health and nutrition initiative in 2018, working with preschoolers and their caregivers. This project, implemented by IOCC in partnership with Peace Winds Japan and with support from the Japan Platform, focuses on three critical areas: screening for and treating malnutrition in youngsters, offering parents health and nutrition training, and supporting kindergartens in promoting their students’ health.
Retal, a four-year-old girl, lives with her mother, her five-year-old brother, Yahiya, her uncles, and their families in her grandparents’ house. The families’ combined income—only about $165 a month—must stretch to feed everyone.
So when Retal and her brother came to the IOCC screening program, both were malnourished, Retal even more severely than Yahiya. They were referred to a local partner clinic, where both received treatment and were monitored at a series of follow-up visits.
Within six months, both Retal and Yahiya had received normal health and nutrition assessments. Meanwhile their mother, Alaa, attended IOCC sponsored workshops on health and nutrition to help her children stay healthy after they finished treatment. “I am forever grateful,” Alaa said, “for IOCC [and these] services to help our children.”
Like Retal, five-year-old Hidaya was malnourished. The youngest of nine siblings, she was severely underweight. Her growth had been mildly stunted, and her teacher had noticed that she had trouble focusing in her kindergarten class. Through the IOCC health and nutrition program, Hidaya received the treatment she needed for malnutrition, and her parents learned how to make better food choices using the resources they have. As Hidaya’s mother said, “The best way to set your child up for a lifetime of healthy eating is to let them see you eating a healthy diet.”
In 2019, thousands of children were screened; those who needed specialized care were referred for treatment. In addition, the staff at 12 kindergartens attended workshops to learn screening methods, and the teachers also received first-aid training. While malnutrition remains a concern in under-resourced areas, the combination of detection, treatment, and education that this program provides is proving effective.