Life-saving care for malnourished children in Senegal

Amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, China and UNICEF teamed up to deliver life-saving care for malnourished children in Senegal

Emna Kayouli
Aicha and her daughter Nima
UNICEF Senegal/2021/Kayouli
18 July 2022

This article was first published on the UNICEF Senegal website in 2021.

COVID-19 has created an increased risk of malnutrition among children in Senegal due to its wide-reaching socio-economic impact. The pandemic affected all aspects of Senegal’s health system and early in the crisis access to nutrition services was often impaired, threatening the provision of lifesaving treatment for malnourished children in the country’s most deprived regions. Meanwhile, lower incomes and measures to control the spread of COVID-19 reduced the availability of and access to quality food, leading to rising malnutrition rates.

Swift support from the Government of China has been crucial in helping to relieve this burden. With the US$1 million donation from China, UNICEF ramped up its support to the Ministry of Health in its management of severe wasting. UNICEF provided vital nutrition supplies, such as ready-to-use therapeutic foods, therapeutic milk and essential medicine to Senegal’s most vulnerable regions.

China’s support ensured the provision of essential nutrition services for over 18,000 children with severe wasting – an extreme form of malnutrition that carries an immediate and increased risk of morbidity and mortality. This grant from China enabled UNICEF to act fast to support the Government to prevent COVID-19, hunger and malnutrition from becoming a vicious cycle impacting the survival and wellbeing of children from the most vulnerable households.

UNICEF Senegal

Nima, a two and half year-old girl, is one of the children who has benefited from China and UNICEF’s support. Her mother, Aicha, was desperately worried about her and sought urgent medical assistance. “I noticed Nima had a fever, loss of appetite and diarrhoea. I was worried and took her to the hospital,” Aicha said. She was admitted to Sedhiou Primary Healthcare Centre, where it was found that she was far too thin for her height – she weighed only 4.2 kilograms (less than half what WHO considers as ‘severely underweight’ for her age), and was 63 centimeters tall.

Further tests and examination confirmed a diagnosis of severe wasting with medical complications, meaning that Nima’s immune system was affected and she was at risk of dying. With the right treatment her situation began to improve.

“She was given medication and good [fortified] milk, which she was drinking. This is how she gradually began to regain her appetite,” Aicha said. She was pleased with the progress Nima was making.

“Since I have been in hospital, the health workers have taken good care of her. She has begun to gain weight,”


The health workers continue to provide her with appropriate care to build up her strength.

The health workers continue to provide her with appropriate care to build up her strength.
UNICEF Senegal/2021/Kayouli

Senegal is one of six countries that received financial support within the framework of the China-UNICEF cooperation against COVID-19 through China’s South-South Cooperation Assistance Fund. "This grant has contributed to improving child survival and we are grateful to China for mobilizing significant funds to support our efforts alongside the Government," said Silvia Danailov, UNICEF Representative in Senegal. XIAO Han, China’s Ambassador to Senegal, praised UNICEF for its work around the world and in Senegal and expressed his country’s pride in establishing partnerships with the United Nations to support other countries.

Thanks to the generosity of donors, including China, UNICEF could act quickly to mitigate the impact of this unprecedented crisis on vulnerable children and families. UNICEF, together with its partners, will continue to support the Government in its efforts to ensure all children in Senegal can access essential services, such as education, health, nutrition, and are protected against all forms of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation.