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NGCamp_BFS (1) © Léa Vollet
pour Action contre la Faim



Bringing psychological support

“My name is…” One after the other, the mothers name themselves. Sitting in circle on a mattress, they form a discussion group where no one would feel excluded. On their laps, babies are sucking sachets of ready-to-use therapeutic food, a thick paste designed to treat malnutrition. The elder ones are playing around, grabbing the toys that lay everywhere.

“How are you managing with your child at the moment?” asks Nyaluak, the psychosocial worker. Tongues loosen, and the women exchange about their experiences. Some speak louder than others who just listen. In a refugee camp, there is much to say.


"They experienced and still are experiencing what may be your worst nightmare"
Nguenyyiel, Mental Health and Care Practices program manager

“This discussion group is important for the mothers”, explains Geta, the Mental Health and Care Practices program manager for Nguenyyiel refugee camp, “They are refugees; they left their home country and their house, some of their relatives were killed. Many of them do not know what happened to other family members, whether their husband died or not. They are traumatized. Here, this is a safe and friendly place. They meet with other mothers; they can talk and express their ideas to our team.”

Nguenyyiel camp is one of the seven refugee camps established in the Ethiopian Gambella region, at the border of South Sudan. 86,000 South Sudanese refugees are living there. In total, Gambella region hosts more than 405,000 persons, mainly women and children, which equals the local Ethiopian population.

NGCamp_Geta (3)

Nguenyyiel camp

© Léa Vollet pour Action contre la Faim

NGCamp_BFS (12)

Nguenyyiel camp

© Léa Vollet pour Action contre la Faim

NGCamp_BFS (1)

Nguenyyiel camp

© Léa Vollet pour Action contre la Faim

NGCamp_BFS (14)

Nguenyyiel camp

© Léa Vollet pour Action contre la Faim


Action Against Hunger teams intervene to fight malnutrition through health and nutrition programs but also through psychological support to the people. The baby-friendly space aims to provide a clean and safe space for pregnant and lactating women, and for their young children under 2 years of age with the objective of prevention of malnutrition through different mental health and care practice intervention activities.

“We call the place the baby-friendly space, because here, mothers can take time to be and interact with their children. With the dire experience of war and their refugee status, it is difficult for them to have time connecting to their baby; they are busy insuring the survival of their household. During the day, they must fetch water, food, firewood, or medical support.”

During the mother-to-mother group support session, the psychosocial worker also provides information on the best child care practices, including guidance on hygiene, nutrition, and health to prevent children from getting sick or becoming malnourished. With a plastic doll, she shows the right position to breastfeed. The mothers participate in the massage and baby bath workshop as well as stress management sessions and awareness on the best child and mother care practices.

“We ask them about their practices and we work from what they tell us, explains Geta, we do not apply a top-bottom approach. There is a lot of knowledge based on cultural habits that are good for children. At the contrary, some practices have a damaging effect like giving water and salt to a sick child, or throwing away the colostrum because it is considered as “dirty”. The colostrum is the first milk, which is yellowish and thick, and it is rich in antibodies.”


Léa Vollet
Communication Officer

In Gambella region, Action Against Hunger works both in the refugee’s camps and within the local Ethiopian communities to prevent and fight malnutrition. Our activities are supported by the European Union Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations of the European Commission (ECHO), the Bureau of Populations, Refugees and Migrations (BPRM), Global Affairs Canada (GAC) and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).

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