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UNICEF Uganda introduces nutrition outreaches to reach all South Sudanese refugee children

© UNICEF Uganda
A nutritionist from Concern Worldwide conducts nutrition screening of refugees upon arrival at Imvempi Reception Center, Northern Uganda

By Catherine Ntabadde Makumbi

UNICEF has introduced nutrition outreaches in the refugee settlements hosting South Sudanese in West Nile to bring services closer to all children.

Launched in February 2017, the outreach missions conducted by Concern Worldwide, a UNICEF Uganda partner are aimed at improving the active case surveillance, identification and screening of any malnourished South Sudanese refugee children.

Using the village health teams, the situation in the refugee settlements has changed with increased referrals to the health centres on nutrition, immunisation, water, sanitation and hygiene and any health related challenge.

“During the emergency, the number of children managed at the health centre was high with over 120 cases in a month but when the situation normalised, we noted a reduction in the number of new cases and high default rates among the children who have not completed their treatment,” Benedicto Nsana, Technical Operations Manager, Adjumani and Moyo districts, Concern Worldwide explains about the new approach.

Funded with support from UKaid, the village health teams underwent training and were given parameters to regularly report on. The VHTs are required to record the situation they find in the refugee households in a summarised way in a book.

Apart from screening services, the VHTs also conduct health education services among the refugees. Nsana says that they are targeting children aged 6 months – 59 months but if the VHTs identify older malnourished children, the teams will attend to them.

During our visit to Pagirinya Refugee Settlement in Adjumani district, Tulio Deng and Elizabeth Nyibo revealed that they had benefited from the nutrition outreach missions. Their daughter, Nyakundi (not real names) was malnourished at 7 years old. She was admitted to Pagirinya Health Centre until she recovered. Nsana revealed that Nyakundi was admitted on 28th November 2016 with a Mid-Upper Arm Circumference (MUAC) of 14.2cm. At the time she was successfully discharged on 6th February 2017, Nyakundi’s MUAC was at 15.4cm.

Deng explained that the VHTs have constantly visited his home and educated him on the need to keep all his children healthy and ensure that none of them is admitted.

In an interview, UNICEF Nutrition Manager Abiud Omwega says, “We have strengthened active case identification of the children for all our health programmes especially in the settlements and camps where health centres are not easily accessible for some sites.” “Our numbers are very low yet we want to reach every child in the settlement. Concern Worldwide is undertaking the outreaches so that children around benefit from these services that have come closer to them. There is evidence that there are more children than what we are reaching at the health facilities,” Omwega further elaborated.

He adds that the outreaches provide integrated services in that apart from the nutrition assessment, they provide opportunities for counselling on Maternal and Infant Young Child Feeding while acting as pharmacy and vaccination points noting that access to nearby health facilities in the settlements can take about 40 minutes.

Simon Anyanzo Chira and Susan Kiden say they have benefited from the public health sessions whereby they learnt complimentary feeding for their 6 months baby.

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