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“She was shy, now she plays with everyone!"


Inclusion | Rehabilitation | Chad | PUBLISHED ON August 31st 2023

© HI

Madeleine is a malnourished infant. HI has been providing her with physiotherapy to stimulate her motor skills and cognitive development.

A very poor family

Egypte is 21 years old. She lives with her husband and daughter, Madeleine, who is nearly two. Egypte doesn’t work. Her husband supports the household by selling phone credits on the street.  He earns a meagre salary, averaging only 750 CFA francs a day, or just over one euro.

Since December 2022, Madeleine has been receiving rations of Plumpy’Nut (food bars formulated for the nutritional rehabilitation of severely malnourished children and adults) from Unicef at the therapeutic nutrition centre at Notre-Dame-des-Apôtre hospital in N'Djamena.

To complement Unicef's support, HI provides malnourished children with stimulation therapy sessions. The therapy comprises seven sessions designed to stimulate the psychomotor skills of children who have been severely affected by malnutrition.

Malnutrition in infants can have serious and irreversible consequences on their development.

The effects of stimulation therapy

Madeleine has now started stimulation therapy sessions with HI’s physical therapist, Ferdinand. The activities are always fun. Ferdinand is teaching Madeleine to walk with the help of a stroller, to communicate using pictures pasted on the wall, and so on. Egypte, who attends the sessions, has seen her daughter progress:

"Before, she didn't play much. She sat in a corner and didn’t move from it. Now she plays with her little friends and with me. She's become very sociable!”.

Ferdinand, the physical therapist, adds :

"With the help of stimulation therapy, she has gained strength and is walking better and more confidently.  At first, she was very reserved, but now she is much more sure of herself.”

Egypte understands the importance of play in stimulating her child. She assures us that she will make sure to play with Madeleine at home to help her develop.

What is stimulation therapy?

Severe malnutrition delays the growth and development of infants. These developmental delays can lead to irreversible disabilities if left untreated.

Stimulation therapy complements emergency food aid. It is a set of activities that stimulate children’s motor skills and cognitive development. The therapist uses toys to encourage them to join in and gives them individual attention.

Each activity plays a specific role in development: holding a toy above a child's head will help with arm extension, while drawing with pens and pencils will help develop a better grip. Simple actions, such as kicking a ball or pushing a plastic car will help develop movement, interactions and reflexes.

Famine affects many families in Chad

In June 2022, Chad, the third least developed country in the world according to the UN, declared a "food emergency" due to the "steady deterioration in the nutritional situation".

According to the UN, 5.5 million Chadians - more than a third of the population - needed "emergency humanitarian assistance" in 2021. The situation has been worsened by the war in Ukraine and its impact on the global grain trade.

The project is being supported by the German Federal Foreign Office (GFFO) until June 2024.

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