A push for families to take action

In central Nepal, thanks to training received by her parents in identifying malnutrition at home and the keen support of healthworkers, a little girl bounces back to life

Smriti Kamar
06 June 2022
Arushi with her father Kulman
UNICEF Nepal/2022/SManandhar

Kavre, Nepal: When Arushi Syangba was born almost two years ago, she weighed just 1.8 kilograms.

Mother Maili and father Kulman, who live in Roshi Municipality in Kavre District in central Nepal, had hoped that the child would gain weight with time. Things, however, were not that simple. Arushi was the youngest of eight children, and the couple – whose livelihood relies on daily wage labour – was pressed for both time and money to take care of such a large family. With the result that they weren’t able to pay proper attention to ensuring whether their children were getting the right kind of food.

It was only when Kulman measured his daughter’s arm using a mid-upper arm circumference or MUAC tape – a simple tool to help identify malnutrition – that the true extent of Arushi’s condition became evident to the family.

Kulman had been among a group of parents in Roshi Municipality who had been trained by health workers at the nearby Aambot Health Post to use the MUAC tape to measure their children’s arms. These tapes are colour-coded to indicate the child’s nutritional status. When measured, Arushi was at red, meaning that she was suffering from severe acute malnutrition.

This pushed her parents into action. They brought the little girl to the health post, where she was rescreened to confirm the level of malnutrition, and immediately provided a two-week supply of ready-to-use therapeutic food or RUTF. RUTF – essentially an energy-dense peanut paste – is a life-saving essential supply item that is used to treat severe wasting in children under five years of age.

Since 2013, UNICEF, through generous funding from the European Union, has been supporting the Government of Nepal in implementing the Multi-Sector Nutrition Plan, to promote healthy, nutritious, and diversified diets for adolescents, pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, infants, and young children. The partnership also supports the Family MUAC intervention, enabling caregivers and parents to assess the nutritional status of their children across four districts in Nepal, as well as the distribution of essential supplies such as RUTF.

Arushi with mother maili
UNICEF Nepal/2022/SKamar
UNICEF Nepal/2022/SKamar

Aside from receiving the RUTF, Maili and Kulman were also counselled on what they could do to incorporate more locally-available nutritious food items in the family’s diet, including that ofArushi’s. A female community health volunteer was also assigned to her case, to follow up continuously with the family.

Through these efforts, in two weeks’ time, Arushi was visibly gaining weight. In another two weeks, she was at seven kilograms, and healthier and livelier than ever before. This comes as a great relief for Maili and Kulman, who are both shocked and happy to see the incredible progress their little girl has made in such a short period of time.