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Reality of malnutrition brought home to Swiss children

Médecins Sans Frontières has set up a tent feeding centre in Bern to show how it deals with malnutrition

A travelling exhibition by the Swiss branch of Médecins Sans Frontières is aiming to convey the stark reality of malnutrition to Swiss schoolchildren in an attempt to raise awareness of a problem which affects millions worldwide.

"This is a public we've never focused on before," says exhibition organiser Nadia Isler of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). "Even though they're young, they're not too young to start thinking about the problem and how we can avoid it."

She says the MSF chose malnutrition as a theme because of its pervasiveness in parts of the world affected by war, drought, forced migration and other crises.

"We talked a lot with teachers before launching the exhibition to see whether it was worthwhile and whether they were also interested. They were all very enthusiastic because malnutrition is a very topical issue."

The video depicts the effects of malnutrition, showing graphic images of lethargic children with swollen bellies. But it also highlights the positive work of MSF in alleviating the problem in the field.

It does this by setting up a typical tent feeding centre used by MSF and taking visitors on a step-by-step tour of the process of feeding up to 200 children a day.

It shows how the children are registered, how they are examined medically and what is distributed in the way of food.

One dish prepared in the tent for visitors to sample is a porridge made out of flour, oil, water and sugar. "It's not very tasty, but it's certainly very nourishing," says Isler.

The exhibition is at Bern's Käfigturm until the end of March and then moves into French-speaking Switzerland until the end of June. It starts a tour of the German-speaking area in September.

Accompanying the exhibition in Bern is a related photographic event called Fieldwork. This is a collection of 50 photographs by seven members of the Magnum photo agency.

Magnum suggested the project to MSF to reflect the organisation's work by focusing on the people it helps in such countries as Tibet, Romania, Angola, Colombia, Kosovo, South Sudan and Italy.

Isler says the exhibition emphasises the long-term work of MSF.

by Paul Sufrin


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