Therapeutic Feeding Centre to help malnourished children opens in Earthquake Affected Area
By Irene Sanchez
Nearly 50 percent of children are underweight in the earthquake affected areas of
In a joint effort, UNICEF and International Red Cross and Red Crescent (ICRC) have assisted the Ministry of Health to set up a Therapeutic Feeding Centre (TFC) in Muzaffarabad, Pakistan administered Kashmir (PAK), the town at the epicentre of the earthquake. With the TFC’s opening any severely malnourished children identified have a second chance at life.
The first of its kind, the TFC has been established in the grounds of
“Malnutrition in all its forms can have terrible consequences for a child’s life,” Dr. John Egbuta, UNICEF Nutrition Officer, says. “A malnourished child gradually loses all his/her energy and is then predisposed to diarrhea, acute respiratory infection and measles. Also the physical and mental development are affected.” Doctor Bashir-ur-Rehamn, the hospital’s Chief Executive Officer says, “Malnutrition is a public health problem and the TFC was urgently needed here…UNICEF has helped us to make this happen.”
One of seven patients currently in the TFC, Shazia Bibi is 13 months old. On being admitted her weight was 4.4 kgs. (The ideal weight for a child of this age is 10-15 kgs.) After just two days of caring and therapeutic feeding Shazia has gained a whole 0.2 kgs.
Shazia was referred to the TFC from the ICRC tent hospital, where her mother, Jalila, had taken her to join other children in the same condition: weak and suffering multiple infections. Sitting by Shazia’s side, Jalila tells how she has five more children waiting at home and says, “I worry about them. My husband is working, but we lost our house in the disaster and now we are living with other relatives. I know my children at home also need me.”
Jalila’s description of how Shazia started to lose weight once she was weaned from exclusive breastfeeding at age of seven months shows clearly how lack of food and inappropriate breastfeeding put children in the first months their life at high risk.
Before the earthquake struck
“In our rural communities the levels of poverty and illiteracy also affect children’s nutrition” says one of the TFC nurses, Ulfat Sajjad, “A woman who has not benefited from education may not know how to take care and feed her children.”
To redress this, UNICEF is supporting the Ministry of Health to open 50 supplementary feeding centres in villages nearby over the next 3 months. “Identification and treatment of underweight children in their own villages will help us to reduce cases of severe malnutrition” Doctor Egbuta explains.
NOTE. Despite care and therapeutic feeding, Shazia couldn’t combat pneumonia. She was transferred to a hospital in