Selective Feeding Programmes in Wadjir: Some Reasons for Low Coverage and High Defaulter Rate
By Fabienne Vautier
The coverage and default rate in selective feeding programmes are taken as proxies of the accessibility and acceptability of these programmes. This article by Fabienne Vautier describes the problems of low coverage and high default rates in Therapeutic and Supplementary feeding programmes run by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Belgium in Wadjir in Kenya. The programme started in April 1998 and covered a three month period.
is the capital of the district of Wadjir (56.500 m2), the district borders
Ethiopia and Somalia. The district's population is estimated at between
200,000 and 300,000. Wadjir town has about 60,000 inhabitants, if the 12
peripheral villages (bullas) are included. The bulla population is approximately
52,000 with 12,000 children under five years. Almost 80% of the population
are nomadic pastoralists of Somali ethnic origin who depend
on livestock for both consumption and income. The semi-arid climate is
not conducive to crop production. The community is organised into clans
and sub-clans that are governed by elders who administer local customs
Since 1990, the area has been affected by droughts (1991-92 and 1996) which resulted in significant livestock losses and 'sedentarisation' of destitute pastoralists in the bullas of Wadjir town. The population of the bullas live off petty trading and small livestock.
In November 1997, the El-Niño phenomenon caused severe flooding resulting in further loss of livestock (caused by epidemics) and population movement. Food relief was organised by the Government of Kenya and NGOs. The situation was aggravated at the beginning of 1998 by a major outbreak of malaria killing many people. A nutritional survey carried out in February 1998 showed a high prevalence of malnutrition, 25.3% (<-2 Z Scores or oedema) and of severe malnutrition 3.7% (<-3 Z-scores or oedema). A retrospective mortality survey found an alarming crude mortality rate of 9.3/10,000/day and an under 5 year mortality rate of 28.4/10,000/day. This mortality rate covered a 2 month period from the previous Ramadan (January 1998 to March 1998).
MSF began working in Wadjir in April '97 on a sanitation programme (rehabilitation of water points throughout the district). Following the flooding the programme was extended to include epidemiological surveillance and cholera preparedness measures. When the malaria outbreak occurred, mobile malaria clinics were set-up. In April '98 the programme incorporated a nutritional component. This involved setting up 2 TFCs and 2 SFCs for the population of the 12 peripheral villages of Wadjir town.
Problems encountered in the nutritional programme
Three weeks after the start of the nutritional programme, the coverage* was only 24.5 % in the TFCs and 40.4 % in the SFCs. Few mothers turned up for the screening of their children and many of those referred by the home visitors did not come to the centre. Of the 116 children admitted to the TFCs, 25 defaulted. Many children left the centres several days before they reached the discharge weight. Tracing was carried out, but the home visitors reported that mothers were reluctant to come for clan-related reasons, i.e. they did not want to attend feeding centres which were employing staff from other bullas/clans. The elders complained about this and that the feeding centres were too far away. In the TFCs, mothers complained about the fact that they were not given tea.
Investigation of the problem
To get a clearer understanding of the underlying reasons for poor coverage and high default rates, MSF conducted focus group discussions with women in the bullas at the end of April. The main points discussed were:
- the main problems faced by families, and in particular children, in the area
- the women's perception of the role of health and feeding centres for children
- the reasons for not coming to the feeding centre.
The main problems in the area were described by most as hunger, poverty and housing, followed by unemployment and lack of latrines. For the children, the main problems were malnutrition and being able to afford school fees. The women seemed to be knowledgeable about signs of illness in their children. Preventive measures against diseases were known (ORS, mosquito avoidance, hygiene). When a child was sick the first strategies were generally praying and use of local traditional medicines (roots, herbs and camel's urine). A visit to health facilities was seen more as a second line strategy. Mothers were aware of the opening of the feeding centres and it seemed that the centres had a good reputation. Nevertheless admission criteria were unclear and some mothers thought that the centres were only for anaemic children.
A number of reasons were given to explain the reluctance to come to the centres. The main ones were:
- mothers were too busy to come - especially for Therapeutic feeding.
- they felt a loss of dignity if they had to go to another bulla (where another clan lived) for help and food.
- they could not accept their children being measured in front of everybody. There was a belief that a child would die if another person saw them being measured.
- they do not like the height measurement being taken with the child lying down as the child looks like he/she is already dead.
- they were afraid about the risk of infections in the feeding centres and also mentioned a lack of hygiene as the trousers (in which the children are placed for the weighing) are not washed from one weighing to the next.
- many children were sent to distant pastoral areas where there is more milk available.
Informal discussions brought out how important the clan-related factors were in preventing attendance at the feeding centres. Mothers were asked about the distance to the centres from their houses, - the large majority of the population lived less than half an hour away.
These discussions showed how the overall problem was one of acceptability. Although it was difficult to do anything about the clan related factors, several measures were taken, based on the findings of the focus group discussions, to improve the acceptability of the programmes.
The main strategy to improve
programme coverage was to provide better information. Discussions
with elders were held to better explain the purposes
of the programme, the criteria for employing staff and the
admission criteria for children. The logistical, human and financial constraints
that would arise by opening one feeding centre in each bulla were
also discussed. Elders were asked to help explain all this and convince
their communities of the need to attend the feeding centres. A decision
was taken to publicise the programme more within the bullas through the
use of home visitors, and to explain to mothers that if they
could not come themselves then they could send another accompanying
A second measure was to improve the screening of children by setting up a mobile screening team going into each bulla to check the weight and height of children at risk ( MUAC < 125 mm). This reduced the likelihood of mothers having to come to the feeding centre for nothing.
The third measure involved improving the services delivered in the centres. Screens were installed for the weight for height measurements, ensuring greater privacy, hygiene was improved in the centres and tea with sugar was provided for accompanying mothers in the TFCs. A fourth measure was to discharge children earlier from the TFC and to refer them to the SFP. At the end of May (the 9th week of the feeding programme), 9253 children had been weighed and measured with 1186 (12.8%) admitted to the SFCs. Of the 1186 admitted, 79% were discharged (cured), 19% defaulted and 2% was transferred.
Even though there was no formal evaluation of the impact of these new measures to improve the acceptability of the programme, mothers were pleased that these measures had been taken. We found that the default rate decreased, while programme coverage remained more or less the same.
The number of weekly admissions (Graph 1) remained below the expected number of beneficiaries based on the results of the nutritional survey conducted in March 98.
But the nutritional survey undertaken in June 98 showed that from March to June, the global malnutrition rate decreased from 25.3% to 12.8% and the severe malnutrition rate from 3.7% to 1.7% . By the time this nutritional programme started in April, the under five mortality rate (Graph 2) and the incidence of malaria were already decreasing. The question arises as to how appropriate it is to use nutritional survey results to estimate feeding programme coverage rates; the previous nutritional survey was conducted several months earlier and the health and nutrition situation is rapidly changing. Even if the impact of the measures taken to improve the acceptability of the programme were difficult to quantify, and may indeed have been limited, there is no question that there is value in getting more information about beneficiary perceptions of a feeding programme and how this fits with traditional practices and beliefs. If nothing else, this allows changes to be made so that programme objectives and beneficiary expectations can be more closely matched.
*Coverage was estimated from the number of potential beneficiaries, extrapolated from the nutitional survey of March 98 and the number of beneficiaries attending the SFP.
More like this
View of the Mandera Camp Lourdes-Vazquez-Garcia worked for MSF Spain in the Mandera feeding centres during the period covered by this article. She subsequently qualified with...
Mothers receiving supplementary ration By: John Moore and Mara Berkley-Mathews John Martin Moore completed training as a Registered General Nurse at National University...
By Peter Salama and Steve Collins. (December '98) A boy sits under a tree awaiting a distribution by the UN World Food Programme in the southern village Acum Cum. The food is...
By Emmanuel Mandalazi and Saul Guerrero, Valid International Ltd Emmanuel Mandalazi is a Social & Community Development Advisor working for Valid International. Over the last...
FEX: Outpatient therapeutic programme (OTP): an evaluation of a new SC UK venture in North Darfur, Sudan (2001)
Summary of internal evaluation1 by Anna Taylor (headquarters nutrition advisor for SC UK) North Darfur experienced a severe drought in 1999 and 2000. This caused widespread...
By Ed Walker (Tearfund) Beneficiaries collecting their general ration in South Sudan. Tearfund has been working in Northern Bahr el Ghazal, southern Sudan, in the nutrition...
FEX: Cultural integration in CTC: Practical suggestions for project implementers (Special Supplement 2)
By Jamie Lee The SPHERE guidelines touch only superficially on culture and the cultural acceptability of humanitarian assistance. However, in recent decades, the wider field...
FEX: CTC in South Sudan - A Comparison of Agency Approaches and the Dilemmas Involved (Special Supplement 2)
Tanya Khara (Valid International), Jennifer Martin (Concern Worldwide), Ed Walker (Tearfund) Introduction In 2003 both Concern Worldwide and Tearfund asked Valid...
By Dr. Jean Galdwin Dr Jean Gladwin is a public health nutritionist and researcher with several years work experience in low income countries in emergency and stable...
By Josephine Querubin, ACF-USA Josephine Querubin is a medical doctor who has been working in humanitarian work for the past 12 years. Beginning in her home country, the...
ACF and ECHO (European Commission Humanitarian Office) undertook a joint evaluation of the ACF therapeutic feeding programme in Burundi in November 1998. The nature of the...
Severely malnourished child with father Commentary by Dr. Steve Collins Dr. Steve Collins is a medical doctor with a doctorate in nutrition during emergency operations. He is...
By Lola Goselow This article is based on a field trip made by Lola Gostelow (SCF HQ emergency advisor) to the SCF programme in Huambo province, Angola in November 1999. The...
By Rowena Ndakwe and Dr Abdi Tari Rowena Ndakwe is the current MEAL Coordinator for Trócaire Somalia, with over five years' experience in monitoring, evaluation,...
Food aid in Afghanistan By Christine Bousquet, Charlotte Dufour, François Grünewald, Hugues Maury, Groupe Urgence Réhabilitation Dévelopement (URD) The Quality Project is an...
By Emmanuelle Lurqin Emmanuelle is a paediatric nurse and since 2000, has worked with MSF Belgium on nutrition programmes in Angola, Burundi, and Afghanistan. She is currently...
By Hedwig Deconinck (SC-US Ethiopia) Save the Children USA (SC-US) implemented an emergency health and nutrition programme in Sidama zone of SNNP region of Ethiopia, in...
FEX: To TFC or to CBTF
Summary of published letter* The last issue of Field Exchange carried a summary of a published article by Steve Collins on community based therapeutic feeding (CBTF). The...
By Samson Desie and Meftuh Omer Ismail View this article as a pdf Lisez cet article en français ici Samson Desie is a nutrition specialist currently working as...
Glossary ACF Action Contre la Faim CHA Community Health Assistant CHAM Christian Health Association of Malawi CNW Community Nutrition Worker CTC Community Therapeutic...
Reference this page
Fabienne Vautier (). Selective Feeding Programmes in Wadjir: Some Reasons for Low Coverage and High Defaulter Rate. Field Exchange 5, October 1998. p16. www.ennonline.net/fex/5/selective