Burkina Faso

The Problem

  • The number of malnourished children in the Burkina Faso is unacceptably high, contributing to high mortality and major cognitive retardations.
  • Micronutrient deficiencies, particularly vitamin A, iron and zinc, are extremely prevalent among very young children, children of school-going age as well as pregnant and nursing mothers.
  • Three Neglected Tropical Diseases - onchocercosiasis, trachoma and lymphatic filariosis - are endemic throughout the country with prevalence rates in some regions extremely high.

What HKI Is Doing

Helen Keller International has been active in Burkina Faso since 1986; our current programs are closely aligned with national government priorities in nutrition and eye health, including:

Community Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM)
For the past 4 years, HKI has been working to prevent and treat malnutrition in the Fada N’Gourma and Gayéri districts. The CMAM model provides a holistic approach by building the capacity of community structures already in place, training community members, and minimizing the time mothers and children must be away at emergency feeding centers and away from the home.

Last year, over 1,300 health workers in Burkina Faso were provided intensive training on nutrition, specifically the Essential Nutrition Actions (ENA) framework, to better help them prevent and treat malnutrition.

In recent years, HKI has expanded this work to include local community leaders, such as grandmothers, who are sharing preventative messages with mothers, and also helping to detect cases of malnutrition. In the Gayéri district, HKI established "care-groups" in collaboration with local health centers to promote proper nutrition, health and hygiene and to be a resource for the early detection of malnutrition. Additionally, messages on ENA and malnutrition are regularly broadcast via radio in the region.

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Integrated School Health Program
In Burkina Faso, schools far outnumber health centers and are a logical and strategic entry point to promote healthy behaviors and habits. Students also transmit the health messages they learn to families and out-of-school peers. Since 1999, Helen Keller International has offered integrated school health programs that reduce malnutrition through school gardens and nutrition education, and prevent blinding trachoma through improved hygiene practices and education in three provinces - Kourwéogo, Gourma, and Komandjari.

Our gardening programs encourage healthy eating habits and ensure children consume micronutrient-rich vegetables, especially during the dry season. Fruit trees are also planted each year to ensure long-term availability of fruits for the school children.

Recently, with the support of Burkina Faso’s Ministry of Basic Education and Literacy, HKI became the lead NGO in a consortium that manages school health and nutrition programs in 25 out of the 45 provinces in the country. HKI works specifically in Gourma and Komondjari provinces to:

  • Train teachers in hygiene/sanitation, nutritional health, and gardening techniques
  • De-worm school children with albendazole
  • Provide vitamin A supplementation twice during the academic year
  • Supply iron supplementation for 16 weeks
  • Promote hygiene, with particular emphasis on face and hand washing, for trachoma control
  • Supply hygiene kits
  • Organize sensitization and hygiene days with the full community
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Orange-fleshed Sweetpotatoes
Community gardens are developed alongside the school gardens, and HKI encourages the local gardeners, who are usually women, to plant and consume orange-fleshed sweet potatoes (OFSP). OFSP are a good source of vitamin A, especially compared to their white-fleshed cousins.

HKI led testing to determine which OFSP varieties were best suited to grow throughout Burkina Faso; out of 22 varieties tested, three were identified as the most efficient. HKI is now working to promote the consumption of OFSP among the general population and teach farmers how to earn extra income through its sale.

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Neglected Tropical Diseases
HKI supports the National Control Programs for Lymphatic Filariasis, Onchocerciasis/River Blindness, Schistosomiasis and Trachoma. We provide technical and financial assistance for mass drug administration (medicine, training agents, treating target populations), as well as comprehensive monitoring and evaluation.

Past NTD activities include:

  • Development of information, education and communication (IEC) materials for onchocercias and lymphatic filariasis control
  • Supervision of mass drug administration and support for health facilities in 11 target districts
  • Strengthening the capacity of health workers, traditional healers, and teachers to educate others about NTDs.
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Homestead Food Production
Global food price volatility has led to chronic hunger and malnutrition in many developing countries, including Burkina Faso. To address this, Helen Keller International is helping vulnerable households improve local food production systems by creating year-round gardens that grow micronutrient-rich fruits and vegetables.

A village model farm is established to teach gardening techniques, provide seeds and saplings, and help participants manage smaller gardens closer to their homes. Women gardeners are also taught about Essential Nutrition Actions in order to help improve the health of their young children.

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Food Fortification
In order to reduce child and maternal morbidity and mortality, and increase the competitiveness of locally produced staple foods, HKI promotes the fortification of cooking oil with vitamin A, and wheat flour with iron, zinc, folic acid and group B vitamins.

The main activities of this project include:

  • Helping industries produce and distribute fortified cooking oil and wheat flour
  • Developing standards for fortified cooking oils and wheat flour produced locally or imported
  • Implementing a communication strategy, including social marketing, to sensitize and inform consumers about the benefit of consuming fortified foods
  • Providing technical support for governments and consumers
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Vitamin A Supplementation
Since 1986, Helen Keller International has worked with the Ministry of Health (MoH) to increase and maintain high Vitamin A Supplementation (VAS) rates for children 6-59 months old, by finding innovative ways to deliver high-potency capsules twice a year.

Since 2001, the HKI-led partnership has achieved more than 80% coverage in its efforts to combat vitamin A deficiency. The capsules were initially distributed through National Immunization Days (NIDs) established to distribute the polio vaccine. Since NIDs are likely to phase out in the near future, HKI and UNICEF worked with government partners to develop other community-based strategies, such as Child Health Days. Vitamin A supplementation was also incorporated into routine services at health centers to maintain the high coverage rates for children and improve those for post-partum women.

HKI is now working to achieve universal VAS coverage for children aged 6-59 months with special attention paid to “hard-to-reach” populations.

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Zinc Supplementation
Preventive zinc supplementation can reduce the incidence of diarrhea, pneumonia and perhaps even malaria in young children. To determine the best way to control zinc deficiency in Burkina Faso, HKI is implementing the “Zinc 7-20” research project, in collaboration with national and international research institutes, to help identify the most efficient and cost-effective approach to prevent zinc deficiency and treat diarrhea.

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