Palestinian Authority: MSF tackles child nutrition

In 1996, MSF carried out an evaluation on child malnutrition in Hebron district which showed that depression linked to political, socio-economic and cultural conditions had affected some mothers' ability to feed and look after their children.

In collaboration with the Swiss agency Terre des Hommes, MSF set up a mental health programme to support mothers and children in need of psychological assistance. MSF main objectives are to re-establish or strengthen the mother/child bond so as to prevent malnutrition and the consequences of malnutrition (psychological disorders, developmental delays, mental and physical handicaps and even death) and to train a Palestinian counsellor to take over psychological activities.

In March 1997, MSF launched a project to bring assistance to former detainees suffering from psychological disorders as a result of detention and ill-treatment. MSF first concentrated its attention on the 3.200 former detainees registered in the rehabilitation centre of the Ministry of Detainees and Free Detainees affairs (MDA) of Hebron District. Over a two year period, MSF trained a psychological counsellor who now runs the service by herself, under the clinical supervision of an MSF psychologist. Building on its experience, MSF is now extending its programme to benefit other former detainees in the West Bank.

A new stage in MSF's primary health care program in Hebron district was launched in 1998. MSF built/rehabilitated and equipped 52 village health rooms (HR), bringing to 68 the total number of HR reorganised by MSF in the area since 1996. To staff these health rooms, MSF has concentrated its efforts on the training of 52 community health workers, who have received a comprehensive upgrade of their medical skills through a one year course.

They are now able to conduct the preventive work needed at village level (mother and child health care, immunisation, health education, home visits, etc.) under the supervision of the ministry of health and the MSF team. An emphasis has also been put on the accuracy of data collection at the village level and its analysis.