Health and Nutrition
By Tapuwa Mutseyekwa
July 2008 - Appreciate Ndoro can hardly walk and weighs under 10kgs. He never spends time playing or meddling around with other toddlers, instead most of his days are spent in bed, moaning and groaning from pains within his body.
“He has not been growing any bigger, when he eats; he just throws up all the food and he always has diarrhea,” says his mother Revai. “For the last three days, he was just laying on the bed, moaning in pain and breathing heavily”
Luckily for Appreciate, his mother was quick to see the pending danger he was in and took him to the Harare Central Hospital for attention. With stunted growth, a swollen tummy; dry scaly skin and sunken eyes, it was not difficult for medical officials to identify this as another case of Kwashiorkor, and he was immediately referred to the Therapeutic Feeding Unit at the hospital.
Appreciate is one of 15 babies who on one particular day were admitted at Harare Central Hospital as a case of severe malnutrition. Diseases of Malnutrition, including marasmus and kwashiorkor, are results of insufficient nutrients being made available to maintain healthy bodily functions; people living in extreme poverty are most susceptible to these conditions.
With a raging inflation of over 2.2million%, and a continued shortage of basic food commodities, cases of malnutrition in children aged between 6months and 12 years are on the increase in Zimbabwe. The 2007 national surveillance figures, showed that 22 000 children in Zimbabwe have acute malnutrition.
The Harare Central Hospital is one of 70 therapeutic centres being supported by UNICEF to offer therapeutic feeding to children who have been diagnosed with severe malnutrition. With assistance from European Commission Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO), the therapeutic feeding centre has responded to the high influx of patients coming in mainly with Kwashiorkor or marasmus. It is at the centre where the treatment of malnutrition is handled through the administering of a mixture of milk and medical mixtures containing vitamins and calcium called F75, administered to the patient at three hour intervals.
With the help of the milk formulae, patients quickly recuperate, gaining up to two extra kilograms within 3-4 days, it is then that they will be able to go back home. Apart from feeding the patients, the centre also offers daily lessons on nutrition, childcare, and hygiene education to the parents and guardians of the children as a measure of ensuring that the child does not suffer from the same problems again.
“Most of the children we see here were weaned too early and the parents have no guaranteed source of balanced meals,” says Matron Margaret Tengende. “We give the mothers information on how to feed their babies properly before they leave because we would not want to have repeat admissions.”
Although severe malnutrition has always been treated at Zimbabwe’s hospitals, UNICEF has since 2002 supported and facilitated the use of new and improved treatment products and methodologies as a way of reducing fatality from the condition.
Diseases of malnourishment are curable; but sadly many children die due to lack of proper treatment.
For Appreciate; the three days spent on the Hospital bed have paid off; he has put on two extra kilograms and will soon be back home. Sadly, with neither the mother nor the father in formal employment, it is will be a tall order for the parents to source food and ensure that Appreciate remains on the recovery path.