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Eleanor Crook Foundation and Helen Keller Intl Announce Partnership with Senegal’s Ministry of Health to Combat Child Wasting

WASHINGTON, Jan. 30, 2024 /PRNewswire/ -- The Senegalese Ministry of Health, the Eleanor Crook Foundation (ECF), and Helen Keller Intl have embarked on a new $4 million initiative to significantly reduce child malnutrition in Senegal. The Ministry of Health will lead this multi-stakeholder project, which is funded by ECF and has primary implementation support from Helen Keller, as well as other key partners, including USAID, Action Against Hunger, the World Bank, and UNICEF. The project launched today with an event in the country's capital of Dakar, titled "Strengthening Services for the Management of Acute Malnutrition in Senegal."

The initiative will focus on scaling up community-based treatment of child wasting – the deadliest form of malnutrition – and has ambitious goals that have the potential to reach more than 80,000 children with lifesaving care. The program aims to boost treatment coverage for wasting by 10 percentage points annually over four years in five malnutrition-prone provinces – a doubling of current rates – while also enhancing program quality and cure rates.

Wasting causes the deaths of millions of children worldwide, and those who survive face significant threats to their long-term health. In recent years, Senegal has made great progress on child stunting, a condition caused by malnutrition that results in slow growth and developmental delays – but unfortunately, progress on child wasting has plateaued. In Senegal, one of the most pervasive barriers for families seeking malnutrition treatment for their children is the distance separating households from health facilities. Additionally, access to screening that detects wasting is inconsistent, so children who need urgent treatment often go unidentified. 

To combat these challenges, Senegal piloted the Community-based Management of Severe Acute Malnutrition (PECMAS_com in French), a program designed to improve and scale the delivery of wasting treatment through community health workers. The pilot succeeded in improving treatment coverage. Through this new $4 million investment, the Eleanor Crook Foundation will provide the catalytic support needed for the government to lead the expansion of this program nationwide. Helen Keller, in coordination with other partners, will support national scale-up.

"Malnutrition is a global problem that is both extremely serious and insufficiently addressed. Its human and economic cost is immense, especially for poor populations, as well as for women and children. Nutritional disorders hinder economic growth and perpetuate poverty through three factors: 1) reduced productivity linked to poor physical condition, 2) increased healthcare costs, and 3) poor cognitive function in children and their failure at school," said Dr. Amadou Doucouré, Director of Mother and Child Health, Senegal Ministry of Health and Social Action. Dr. Amadou continued by saying, "Senegal has made the fight against malnutrition a priority, and has included it in all its policy documents, such as the Emerging Senegal Plan; the National Health and Social Development Plan; the Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Reproductive Health and Nutrition Plan; and the Multisectoral Nutrition Strategic Plan. This has also been reflected in Senegal's commitments at the international level through the 2025 global targets and the Sustainable Development Goals, notably SDG3. And in Senegal, much progress has been made, but efforts are still needed to reach the 5% target for acute malnutrition by 2025. It is in this context that the Ministry of Health and Social Action is implementing a strategy for the management of acute malnutrition to increase coverage and bring services closer to the beneficiaries. This involves the management of severe acute malnutrition at the community level. With this new strategy, we hope to improve the services' quality, ensure good child survival, and sustainable development in Senegal."

In addition to supporting training and capacity building for front-line community health workers, the program will focus its efforts on three key areas: 1) quarterly screenings of children under five for wasting; 2) supply chain strengthening for malnutrition treatment commodities such as Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food; and 3) review of treatment protocols to ensure they are up-to-date, context-specific, and grounded in the most recent World Health Organization recommendations. Through a focus on national-level policy, the program will also support the government's efforts to increase coverage nationwide, by mobilizing funding from a range of sources to ensure both scale and sustainability.

"Seeing a child dying from acute malnutrition is one of the most heart-wrenching experiences of my life. It is even more tragic, because with the development of community-based management of acute malnutrition, we now have the tools and knowledge to meet the needs of all children who need treatment," said Shawn K. Baker, Chief Program Officer, Helen Keller Intl. "This catalytic investment supports the next chapter in treatment of acute malnutrition – helping community health workers reach children in need of treatment earlier and getting them the services they need to ensure they are stronger, healthier, and well-nourished in the future. Helen Keller Intl greatly appreciates the Eleanor Crook Foundation's invaluable support and the leadership of the Government of Senegal to advance this lifesaving work."

William Moore, CEO of ECF, said, "Each year, malnutrition kills more children worldwide than malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS combined – making it the number one killer of children globally. The Government of Senegal has demonstrated impressive leadership in the fight against malnutrition. The innovative, community-based approach they've piloted has delivered promising results, reducing child wasting. ECF is honored and excited to support ambitious plans in Senegal to scale up treatment and dramatically reduce child deaths from malnutrition across many parts of the nation. This partnership is an important piece of our Foundation's broader effort to support national governments and partners committed to scaling high-impact, cost-effective malnutrition interventions – and we are excited to see the lifesaving results."

About the Senegal Ministry of Health

The Ministry of Health is responsible for planning, implementing, and monitoring the Senegalese government's health policy. It also coordinates and monitors the implementation of health programs.

About the Eleanor Crook Foundation (ECF):

The Eleanor Crook Foundation is a growing U.S. philanthropy fighting to end global malnutrition through research, policy analysis, and advocacy.

About Helen Keller Intl:

By delivering the essential building blocks of good health, sound nutrition and clear vision, Helen Keller Intl helps millions of people around the world create lasting change in their own lives so they can reach their true potential.

Eleanor Crook Foundation
Nyequai Harte, Associate Director of Communications
[email protected]

SOURCE The Eleanor Crook Foundation