Health project in Madagascar

Enfants du Monde prevents malnutrition in schools


Madagascar is one of the poorest countries in the world, with almost 75% of its population living below the poverty line. In 2019, the International Food Policy Research Institute classified the country as having an “alarming level of hunger”. Now, almost 2 million children under 5 suffer from chronic malnutrition and this makes malnutrition one of the biggest challenges that Madagascar faces.

Since January 2021, Enfants du Monde, in collaboration with its non-profit partner CO.P.E. (Cooperazione Paesi Emergenti / Cooperation for the Development of Emerging Countries), has been supporting a nutrition education pilot project in three primary schools in Ambanja, in the north of the country. Following the first encouraging results, the experiment is extended to 2022 and 2023.

Projet de prévention de la malnutrition à Madagascar © Enfants du MondeProjet de prévention de la malnutrition à Madagascar © Enfants du Monde

Transmitting the principles of a healthy and nutritious diet to the children in Ambanja

In order to fight malnutrition, our team has developed different textbooks and games so that teachers can teach school children the principles of a healthy and nutritious diet.

  • A guide for the teachers, combining theory and practice. The guide contains basic information on nutritional principles, hygiene, malnutrition, as well as fun activities to perform in class. The goal is to change the eating habits of the pupils and their families.
  • A booklet in the form of a comic book for the children, whose story is based on three Malagasy characters that school children can easily identify with. They discover the principles of a healthy, nutritious, varied diet adapted to local eating habits.
This project is important to us and to the children as we learn how to better cook local food. The teaching manuals allow us to deepen our knowledge of good nutrition and make us autonomous in transmitting this knowledge to our school children.

Sylvia Newkeze, Principal of Mangfally private preschool

Mobilizing experts in the South and the North

The guide and the comic book were developed during a participatory process between the Health team of Enfants du Monde based in Geneva and the Malagasy team, in order to benefit from each other’s skills.

In Madagascar, the principal of a private school, a midwife, the head of the district for school health services and some teachers contributed with their knowledge on local eating habits, local products and their use.

In Switzerland, apart from our Health expert, a doctor, a nutritionist and several educational experts were called upon to develop teaching materials.

From Italy, Terre Innovative Healthcare made its graphic design skills available.

Overview of the teaching guide developed for teachers for classroom activities:

 Guide de l'enseignant-e - Nutrition - Madagascar

 Guide de l'enseignant-e - Nutrition - Madagascar

 Guide de l'enseignant-e - Nutrition - Madagascar

Raising awareness in the community too

Enfants du Monde has trained around thirty teacher trainers in Ambanja, who in turn can train other teachers and put into practice the use of materials to promote good food practices among school children and their families. More than 1,000 children and their families (about 5,000 people) will thus be reached.

I enjoyed training teachers so that they can then, through fun activities, help children discover how to eat well and why it is important. 

Warda Razafindravelo, midwife and coordinator for the health part of the project « Preventing child malnutrition in Madagascar »

In order to support the project beyond the school classes and to reach the families and communities, the guide’s themes (nutritional principles, hygiene, malnutrition) developed for the teachers will be taken up in radio programmes in which groups of parents will participate.

Alongside these activities, before the end of 2022, a panel of judges made up of pupils and teachers will organise a gastronomic contest in which families will take part. The meals will be judged according to their nutritional value and the use of local products. The winners will go back home with all they need to make again several delicious meals.

Some pupils will also be called upon to set up a play based on the comic book written for the project. They will use this story of a brother and sister who discover the principles of a good diet and of their friend who eats unhealthily. A class of older children will be performing the play before 24th December 2022.

There are also plans for a vegetable garden to be taken care of by the children during the school year.

The nutritional knowledge and eating habits of the children and their families were assessed at the beginning of the project, and they will regularly be re-evaluated in order to determine what has been learnt through the project.

Overview of the comic booklet, developed for school children and their families:

Identifying cases of malnutrition

To complement these efforts to prevent malnutrition, our partner Terre Innovative Healthcare has set up an Android application for the detection and monitoring of malnutrition among children in the three schools in Ambanja.

Giovanna Stancanelli, Director at Terre Innovative Healthcare, explains that the application, aimed at health workers, allows them to record children follow-up with parameters such as age, height, weight, temperature and other more general observations on their health. This information is synchronised in a database which authorised staff has access to, and can highlight problematic cases.

terreinnovativehealthcare main© Anna Valentino / Terre Innovative HealthCare