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UNICEF takes initiative in Tharparkar

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UNICEF takes initiative in Tharparkar

By A. Sami Malik

In a remote district of Pakistan, food scarcity, low rains and lack of access to health services combine with widespread poverty to increase malnutrition and child mortality. UNICEF is helping to respond through community-based measures, better access to services and raising awareness of proper nutrition.  

MITHI, Pakistan, 20 July 2015 – “Raising children has not been easy for me,” says Pushpa, 27. “Each one of my daughters was underweight at the time of birth, and I had to take them to the doctor frequently, as they would often fall sick.”

he is waiting patiently at a UNICEF-supported nutrition centre for her 7-month-old daughter, Lata, to be examined for her nutritional status. Pushpa is a mother to three young girls and very conscious about their health.

When her two older daughters were growing, they also had the same issues: low birth weight, feeble appearance, lethargic demeanour and frequent infections. She wondered why her children were not healthier.

“I want her to be examined and hope to get those packets `{`therapeutic food`}` they give for children. It fills up their stomach and makes them active.” - Pushpa

Pushpa is a resident of Meghwar Paro, a village in Tharparkar district, in the Thar Desert, an area covering more than 120,000 square miles across the Indo-Pakistani subcontinent. Extreme heat in summer, food scarcity, unsafe drinking water and lack of access to basic health facilities have an adverse effect on the life and well-being of communities here. Poverty rates are high, and the lack of rain affects agriculture and livestock, the main sources of livelihood.

As a result, undernutrition is common among children and women. High rates of child mortality – largely due to acute malnutrition – pose a major challenge for local authorities, humanitarian organizations and civil society groups working in the area.

Assessement

At the nutrition centre in Meghwar Paro, the nutrition level of children and pregnant or breastfeeding women is assessed by checking mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) and by measuring height and weight. Children with severe acute malnutrition (SAM) are admitted to the Outpatient Therapeutic Programme (OTP), while children with moderate acute malnutrition (MAM) are admitted to the Targeted Supplementary Feeding Programme (TSFP).

Micronutrients and medication are provided for acutely malnourished children, and those with complicating illness are referred to the stabilization centre at the District Headquarter Hospital in Mithi, the district capital.

Lata’s height, weight and MUAC reveal that her undernutrition status is severe. She is registered in the OTP, and given sachets of Ready to Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) – a high-energy peanut paste that contains essential micronutrients to help increase the nutrition level of a child within a short period of time.

Recovery

An important aspect of the CMAM process is taking care of children who suffer from severe acute malnutrition and also have medical complications. On average, around 30 to 40 cases are brought to the stabilization centre every month.

“Children who are brought to the stabilization centre, apart from being severely malnourished, suffer from either pneumonia, diarrhoea, fever, or all at the same time,” says Dr. Bhawan Rai, the Medical Officer in charge of the centre.

Treatment includes administering of antibiotics, folic acid, vitamin A and multivitamin supplementation, deworming, iron supply, therapeutic milk and food, Dr. Rai explains.

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3 Comments
  • This is so nice! I love that you could join such a great cause!

    October 5, 2015 at 1:55 pm
    • admin
      Reply

      I love getting to meet people who read my blog, such an amazing feeling.

      October 5, 2015 at 1:55 pm
  • Beautiful way to end a post.

    October 5, 2015 at 1:57 pm

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