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Malnourished child gets a new lease of life

© UNICEF/BANA2009-00929/Noorani
A community health worker weighs children during a growth monitoring session at a NGO that works with the Dhaka City Corporation to improve nutritional status of children.

By Zahidul Hassan

Zulekha is a 15-month-old girl recovering from Severe Acute Malnutrition. She lives in Hoglapata village under Bamna Upazila in Barguna district, located in south-western Bangladesh. Her father Sagir Hossain – a day labourer, and mother Kulsum, could not afford to purchase the variety of foods required to ensure good growth and weight gain.  Following a family disagreement, Zulekha’s parents separated.

Adding to her woes, Zulekha’s motherbecame disabled from an accident and had to return to her parents. So, Zulekhastarted living with her grandparents who were also living in extreme poverty.  Due to their poor economic situation, Zulekha did not receive the right types of food and was fed only twice a day.

Luckily, Zulekha’s grandparents lived within reach of a UNICEF-supported nutrition intervention. Zulekha was identified by a community nutrition worker trained under the nutrition project, which is funded by the Spanish Government and implemented by a local partner.

Nutrition: Key to child wellbeing

Addressing under-nutrition must be a priority for us all. Ending under-nutrition in children is vital to achieving virtually all of the MDGs by 2015. Yet, chronic malnutrition, also called stunting, is, perhaps, the most under-reported, under-prioritized, and least understood issue in development today.

Some 180 million children around the world are stunted. Stunting is the irreversible outcome of chronic nutritional deficiency during the first 1,000 days of a child’s life. The damage it causes to a child’s development is permanent. That child will never learn, nor earn, as much as he or she could have if properly nourished in early life. Dozens of countries face extremely high percentages of stunting, as high as 30-40 percent. In Bangladesh, over 40 percent suffer from this condition.

It is to address stunting and accelerate global efforts to combat child under-nutrition;the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement was established in 2010. Earlier this month, the SUN Movement gained momentum with the convening of 27 global leaders committed to advancing the strength and security of nations by improving maternal and child nutrition. This influential group, appointed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will serve as strategic guides for this global Movement.

Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina is a member of the SUN Movement Lead Group, pledging her commitment with other world leaders to work together to improve the nutrition of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable children. The Prime Minister’s commitment to SUN illustrates the urgency and priority that she places on alleviating malnutrition, as well as a recognition of the incredible impact that improved nutrition could have on the future of both individuals and nations. Sir Faizle Hasan Abed, founder and chair of BRAC, is also a member of the SUN Lead Group.

UNICEF is proud to be a part of the SUN movement. Combatting under-nutrition and stunting is at the heart of UNICEF’s mandate to reach the most disadvantaged and marginalized.

Combatting stunting is one of the most cost-effective investments a country can make. A project which engaged leading economists to evaluate solutions to the world’s most persistent challenges – ranked providing young children with micronutrients the number one most cost-effective ways to advance global welfare.

© UNICEF Bangladesh
Zulekha can now stand on her own which is source of great joy to her mother and grandparents. The community nutrition workers still pay visits from time to time to see Zulekha and offer their help.

Zulekha’s Recovery

The community nutrition worker examined Zulekha during a screening session in August 2011 and found Zulekha’s mid-upper arm circumference was only 10.3 cm, her weight was 6.10kg and she was unable to stand. She was immediately enrolledinto the outreach programme under the project and wasprovided with therapeutic-food.

While Zulekha’s weight increased, the community worker provided intensive counselling to the family on how they could keep Zulekha well-nourished and healthy, even in the poor environment within which they lived. 

In particular, the community worker showed simple techniques for easy handwashing and gave demonstrations on how to prepare nutritious meals and snacks for their child.   The family received regular follow up visits from the project workers to ensure Zulekha’s improvement.

Zulekha can now stand

After about one-and-half month, Zulekha’s health improved and she was discharged fromthe outreach programme as her mid-upper arm cirmference improved to 12.4 and weight increased to 7.5 kg.

She can now stand on her own which is source of great joy to her mother and grandparents. The community nutrition workers still pay visits from time to time to see Zulekha and offer their help.



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