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Malawi, 30 January 2017: A health surveillance assistant’s intervention saves the life of baby Daniel

© UNICEF Malawi/2017/Burnett
Liness with Daniel at the Nutrition Rehabilitation Unit in Neno.

NENO, Malawi, January 2016 – It was a visit by the local health surveillance assistant (HSA) to Liness Machewa’s home in Kudembo Village, Neno District, that brought Liness and her baby Daniel to Neno District Hospital. The child was screened by the HSA and then referred to the hospital. After two weeks Daniel had still not recovered. The HSA recommended that Liness and Daniel attend the local NRU to receive further treatment for severe acute malnutrition. Liness was anxious, but after consulting the village headman, she was reassured, and the arrangements were made. On 4 January 2017 Daniel was admitted to the NRU to receive his life-saving treatment.

Like many other children in Malawi, Daniel is suffering the consequences of a prolonged drought, which has forced 6.5 million Malawians into food shortages and potential malnutrition. With the rainy season having already started in the south of Malawi, Liness and Daniel, are now at risk of floods as well.

A nutrition survey conducted by UNICEF in December 2016 indicated that the overall national global acute malnutrition (GAM) is 4.1 per cent of the population of 5-year-olds (increasing from 2.5 per cent in May 2016), while the severe acute malnutrition (SAM) rate is at 0.8 per cent (increasing from 0.5 per cent in May).

In response to the severe conditions, UNICEF supported the Government of Malawi to implement mass nutrition screenings for children at risk of malnutrition. The initiative identifies children in all districts of Malawi, suffering from or at risk of malnutrition, and refers them to the necessary services. They are either referred to an Outpatient Therapeutic Programme (OTP), for home treatment with ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF), or to the Nutrition Rehabilitation Unit (NRU), providing in-patient medical nutritional therapy care to stabilise severely malnourished children. Failure to treat, could result in death and children who are not treated for this form of malnutrition have a 9 times increased chance of dying as compared to healthy children.

© UNICEF Malawi/2017/Burnett
Nurses like Gladys ensure that children get the best treatment in Nutrition Rehabilitation Units for speedy recovery

Gladys Ntonya, Nursing Officer-in-charge of the Paedeatric/NRU ward, explained how they were helping Daniel and many other children. “When a child like Daniel arrives, we check his or her weight and height. We also test for other illnesses such as malaria. Next we give the child F75, a therapeutic milk every 3 hours to stabilize them. We take their temperature and weigh them regularly, and continuously check on their condition and progress.”

Children also receive folic acid, vitamin supplement and an antibiotic, Amoxicillin, to treat infections that often affect severely malnourished children. When the child’s condition stabilizes, they are given F100, another therapeutic milk. Children such as Daniel may be discharged after one-to-two weeks, depending upon the seriousness of the condition, and once home will first be part of the out-patient therapeutic programme for up to 8 weeks. Finally, supplementary feeding (referred to as the Supplementary Feeding Programme -SFP), comprising dry take-home rations to help them in their recovery will be provided.

“I feel happy and optimistic again,” Liness says. She had become frantic that Daniel would not survive or would suffer life-long consequences but the treatment is working and Liness thanks Gladys who looks at Liness and Daniel with satisfaction.



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