For every child, nutrition even in emergency situations
Six months after Super Typhoon Odette (Rai), healthcare workers in Southern Leyte are able to better address malnutrition in the province after receiving support from UNICEF.
Southern Leyte has always had high cases of severe acute malnutrition (SAM) and moderate acute malnutrition (MAM) and according to Claurise Anne Santos, the Provincial Nutrition Program Coordinator Officer-in-Charge, the numbers were exacerbated by Super Typhoon Odette (Rai) that hammered their communities in December. “For the first quarter, we have recorded a total of 160 SAM and 565 MAM cases in the whole Southern Leyte. It was hard to manage at first because certain municipalities have more than 30 barangays and they resorted to sharing tools and equipment like height boards and salter scales.”
On top of the limitations in terms of tools and equipment, there was also a gap in the skills of the healthcare workers to properly evaluate, record, and monitor malnutrition cases. “The Philippine Integrated Management of Acute Malnutrition (PIMAM) training courtesy of UNICEF and its partners really refreshed the knowledge and strengthened the capacity of our healthcare workers. The height boards, salter scales, and mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) tapes, as well as the ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF) they have provided also ensured the sustainability of the program and the accuracy in terms of the skills application of the participants,” Claurise said.
Dr. Christian Poleño, the rural health physician in Malitbog, Southern Leyte, agrees. “As a physician, my knowledge about addressing malnutrition was definitely enriched because of the PIMAM training. Some gaps were corrected — from the simple usage of the MUAC tape to the proper addressing of SAM and MAM cases,” he said. He credits the training, as well as the tools and supplies that they received, for improvement of SAM and MAM cases in Malitbog. “Now that we have the appropriate equipment, I believe that the nutritional status for Southern Leyte and for Malitbog, particularly, will be more accurate,” he said.
Shyrell Jane Maunes, Nurse II of Malitbog, is also very happy with the training session that they received, more so, the reflection they have in the SAM and MAM cases in their municipality. ““Post-Odette, there were 20 SAM and 39 MAM cases. We were able to help cure 57 children through this life-saving treatment and now, we only have 2 MAM patients. We made sure to cascade what we have learned to our colleagues here so that everything is in order. You see, recording can be very tricky because just a centimeter or a decimal point would immensely affect the process,” she said.
The PIMAM training also helped the Municipality of Malitbog to improve its local health system to ensure better access to malnutrition detection and treatment services. Through Dr. Poleño’s initiative, Malitbog was able to allocate a dedicated space for outpatient therapeutic care (OTC) and nutrition services, the first municipality to do so in Southern Leyte. This provides immediate care to children diagnosed with severe acute malnutrition. Before, most cases had to be taken to Tacloban City for in-patient therapeutic care (ITC) therapy, which entails a 3- to 4-hour drive. Claurise hopes that more municipalities will follow suit in establishing their own OTC sites.
Aside from the PIMAM training, healthcare workers in southern Leyte also underwent EO 51 capacity-building. EO 51, popularly known as the Philippine Milk Code of 1986, is the country’s national code of marketing of breastmilk substitutes, breastmilk supplements, and other related products. The importance of exclusive breastfeeding for at least 6 months even during emergency situations was reiterated to them.
Claurise, Dr. Christian, and Nurse Shyrell are all grateful for the learnings that they were able to receive, as these would aid them in ensuring that the children of Southern Leyte are well taken care of. As Claurise puts it, “When young children grow, both their physical and mental development are involved. When we are accurately able to help them, there will be fewer of them getting illnesses or worse, dying. They would all just live happy and healthy lives.” ###