Monday, October 5, 2009

Reducing Underweight and Malnutrition of Children in Malawi.

ADRA MALAWI, in its effort to assist the Government of Malawi in reducing child malnutrition among under five children is promoting good child care and feeding practices for under fives in Mulanje and Neno districts.

ADRA is following an approach called Positive Deviance(PD Hearth) in its fight against malnutrition. Health workers are trained in child care and feeding. Children from each village are then weighed and using Z score, malnourished children are identified. Those in -3 are considered severe and referred to Rehabilitation Units but those in -2 Z score are referred to group feeding program within the village.

Mary is a 3 year old girl is one of the beneficiaries of the Positive Deviance - PD Hearth program. Mary’s parents are divorced and she lives with her 23 year old mother. The mother has problems maintaining the health status of the child mainly because she had no knowledge in approriate child feeding and care. This led Mary to be malnourished. Before joining the feeding program, Mary weighed 11.4 Kilograms against normal weight for age of 14.3 kilograms. After 12 days of feeding, Mary weighed 12.3 kilograms gaining 0.9 Kilograms.

Her mother says, her child was sick most of the times because she didn’t know how to prepare her nutritious food. Having been encouraged by the village headman and Health workers, she decided to take the child for the village based group child feeding program. She says she is able to get the resources needed, because they are locally found and she will continue preparing the same even after graduating from the PD Hearth program and until the child gains normal weight against her age.

In this intervention all women with underweight children come together for a 12 day feeding program. Unlike other programs which provide the feed, ADRA does not provide food instead, women contribute towards the feeding exercise. They cook porridge and feed the children for 12 days. Ingredients into the porridge include: maize flour, pigeon peas, or soya , milk, groundnuts, egg, vegetable, sugar and where possible a little drop of oil.

This intervention also goes a long way to reduce child mortality since most of the child killer diseases are a result of nutrition deficiency.

After the program completion the ADRA staff continues to monitor the children with the assistance of the government Health Workers and Village Volunteers, to ensure that the children continue to improve and gain weight and monitor their health after the PD Heart intensive program ends.

Author: Moses Mpezeni – Project M&E Officer

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