Nyatut Tholbok and her mother Nyabem Kher in a stimulated therapy session for malnourished children. | © M.PATTEN / HI
In Ethiopia, children are increasingly facing food insecurity. HI uses stimulation therapy for malnourished children to prevent developmental delays.
The horn of Africa is experiencing one of the worst droughts the area has ever seen. In Ethiopia alone, more than 8 million people have been affected and over 17 million people are in need of agricultural support. 4 million livestock have been lost, and 30 million more are at risk of starvation, further reducing food sources. Additionally, the average price of food items has increased by 40% since 2019.
“When children face malnutrition, it is highly likely that they will suffer developmental delay,” explains Gadisa Obsi, HI physical therapist in Ethiopia. “They may have difficulty performing daily activities compared to other children of the same age. Malnutrition can also cause impairments, which could lead to disability in the long term.”
HI is present in the largest refugee camp in Gambella, Ethiopia, supporting displaced children with developmental delay resulting from malnutrition.
Complementary to nutrition support provided by HI partners, stimulation therapy for malnourished children uses play-based rehabilitation exercises to strengthen child development and prevent the impairments that might occur as a result of malnutrition.
Gadisa and his team identify children in need in the community, provide therapy sessions and do as much follow-up as possible. They also inform caregivers about early-childhood development and the importance of early exposure to stimulated play and human interactions in physical and cognitive development.
18-month-old Nyatut Tholbok is originally from South Sudan, but is now living as a refugee in Gambella with her mother, Nyabem Kher. When she first met HI, Nyatut showed signs of severe malnutrition, and her motor skills had suffered tremendously. She struggled to stand on her own, or even to crawl like other children her age. With HI’s ongoing therapy sessions and nutrition assistance from partner ACF (Action Contre la Faim), Nyatut has made noticeable improvements in her follow-up sessions. She has already begun to stand and continues to improve her mobility.
“The impact on the life of the child, their family and the community is immense,” Gadisa says. “We are so proud to have been successful in preventing developmental delay for many children while they were recovering from malnutrition.”
 Funded by the State Department’s Bureau of Populations, Refugees, and Migration.