Friday, April 10, 2015

Nutrition project brings hope

Glorindo Pereira, 18 months with his mother Silvina da Silva (37 years old)
and his father Oscar BM Carmona (41 years old)
@UNICEF Timor-Leste/2015/Mpgoncalves
18-month-old Glorindos Pereira is playing on his mother’s lap. His smiles and playful face bring contentment to his parents. It is hard to believe that he was struggling for life only a month before. The memory of that night is still alive in Silvina da Silva’s (37), Glorindos’s mother’s mind.

Glorindos was suffering from a cold but his parents did not notice that the poor child was also suffering from a breathing problem. They thought it was a common illness of children of his age and that he would be fine. “All of a sudden, at night, I noticed something was seriously wrong, my baby was struggling to breath. At one point, I thought I am losing my baby,” says Silvina while sharing her experiences. Glorindos family lives in Rita-Bou village in Maliana and he is  his parents’ fifth child.

“In the early morning, we took him to the SISCa (Integrated Community Health Services) in my village. The doctor assessed him and immediately referred him to Maliana Hospital,” Silvina continues.

Maliana District Hospital is a centrally located medical facility with staff, equipment, and treatment options. Glorindos was diagnosed as having respiratory infection and suffering from severe wasting; he was hospitalized to stabilize his medical condition.

“The child’s condition was feeble and he was about to die at the time of admission”, says Khamidatusuni, Maliana Hospital’s Nutrition Assistant. Glorindos received treatment for infections in the hospital as well as feeding with therapeutic milk. After two weeks, his medical complications were controlled, he was discharged with advice to continue with ready to use therapeutic foods and to attend regular check-ups as an out-patient.

Silvina received a supply of therapeutic food from the hospital when her son was released and continued giving therapeutic food in prescribed amounts on a daily basis to Glorindos at home and to continue his treatment at the health facility.

Silvina affirmed that, in addition to making sure Glorindos attends regular check-ups, she also ensures that Glorindos gets a proper diet including fruits, vegetables, meat, and eggs, which are available at the local market as recommended by the Nutritionist.

Realization of Life

“Being a cleaner working in a hospital I feel really ashamed. I am working in the hospital as a cleaner and I didn’t encourage my wife to bring my son to hospital in time,” Glorindos’s father Oscar BM Carmona (41) says.

Like Glorindos’ parents, many parents do not recognize the symptoms or understand what causes malnutrition. According to the Timor-Leste Food and Nutrition Survey 2013 (TLFNS 2013), more than 50 per cent of Timorese children who are under five-year are suffering from ‘chronic malnutrition (stunting).  More than 37 per cent children are underweight and 11 percent are suffering from ‘acute malnutrition’ (Wasting).

“Malnutrition occurs in children due to a combination of inappropriate infant feeding and caring practices and recurrent childhood illnesses, which in turn result from inadequate health care, unsafe water and inadequate sanitation and hygiene practices,” says Teresinha Soares, UNICEF’s Nutrition Officer.

Addressing Undernutrition

Like Glorindos, often undernourished children are detected when they are brought to a health facility with other illnesses such as a cough, fever or diarrhoea. To address undernutrition and acute malnutrition and provide support to the families like Glorindos’, in partnership with the Ministry of Health of Timor-Leste, UNICEF is implementing the Integrated Nutrition Project to improve coverage of a package of High Impact Nutrition Intervention (HINI) in three districts.

Started in 2014 with the support of the European Commission (EC), 983 children with severe acute malnutrition received treatment in Ainaro, Bobonaro and Ermera districts through this project. Supplies and commodities are provided to the health centers and 16 sub-district nutrition coordinators are recruited to reach the children in need.

By treating more children, like Glorindos, and ensuring that health facilities have the trained staff and necessary medical resources, Timor-Leste is working towards tackling the undernutrition problem in the country.

By Maria Paulina Goncalves – UNICEF Nutrition Officer

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