Go to main content

Yacouba is overcoming the effects of malnutrition with the help of stimulation therapy


Rehabilitation | Niger | PUBLISHED ON June 27th 2023
Yacouba looks at the camera and raises both hands in the air, palms open and fingers outstretched.

Yacouba, two years old, doing physical therapy exercises at home in Madarounfa, Niger. | © J. Labeur / HI

Due to malnutrition, two-year-old Yacouba had lost the ability to walk. HI's stimulation therapy sessions have made him more autonomous, much to the delight of his whole family.

Yacouba Hamza's mother, Aïcha Moussa, noticed that malnutrition was causing her son to lose some of his motor skills. She turned to the nearest health centre, where the individual therapy session through play provided by HI enabled the little boy to quickly catch up.

Malnutrition: a threat to children’s future

Aïcha Moussa, Yacouba’s mother, at home. © J. Labeur / HIAïcha and her husband have five children; their only income comes from farming. During the hunger gap, when stocks from the previous year are exhausted and the new harvest is not yet in, they don't have enough to meet the needs of their hungry children. To make matters worse, a few months ago, Yacouba fell seriously ill. A series of severe bouts of diarrhoea and an insufficient intake of nutrients caused him to lose some of the motor skills he had acquired.

"Yacouba's health was very worrying. Not only could he no longer walk, but even getting around on all fours seemed to be too much for him," recalls Aïcha.

Stimulation therapy giving families hope

In Niger, HI has put a system in place to raise awareness and provide information about stimulation therapy for malnourished children in local health centres. This is how Aïcha heard about the sessions provided by HI. She went along with her son in the hope of seeing his health improve.

Yacouba has since attended several therapy sessions with the HI teams in which he did exercises designed to stimulate him, teach him to walk again and improve his ability to stand for long periods with the help of a child’s tricycle. Aïcha has learned to reproduce some of these exercises at home, using everyday objects such as a chair or stool.

Their efforts have been rewarded. Today, Yacouba can stand up without help and walk like a big boy!

"I'm very hopeful now that Yacouba is walking on his own without difficulty. The constant stress I was feeling about his health has gone. It's a relief, a real joy. Yacouba now spends time outside playing with the other children. I hope  he will continue to grow and thrive and become an upstanding adult who will contribute to the community.”

Play as a therapeutic tool

Stimulation therapy session for malnourished children in Maradi, Niger. © J. Labeur / HIThe approach of stimulation therapy for malnourished children is provided by HI to support the development of children who have suffered the consequences of malnutrition. Play is a therapeutic tool that allows physiotherapists to stimulate the children's interest and encourages them to perform movements to help their physical and psychomotor development.

HI has been running a rehabilitation and stimulation therapy project for malnourished children in the Maradi region since 2022. The project will run until 2026. Since the launch of these activities, HI has accompanied more than 1,300 children in playgroup sessions and also in individual sessions of stimulation therapy done by rehabilitation professionals, provided 30 health centres with adapted equipment, trained 100 health professionals and raised awareness among more than 2,800 parents. Eventually, 30,000 children will benefit from rehabilitation care adapted to their needs and 60,000 parents will benefit from awareness raising. These activities are made possible thanks to the support of the DGD.

More news