The data from our first bi-annual malnutrition screening is in, and we are delighted to see rates stabilise. In April, TGF worked with local health centres to screen almost 5,000 children under 5 years old. In recent years we have strategically conducted these screenings during the Khmer new Year (April) and Pchum Benh (September/October) holidays, as these are the major holidays in the year when people return to their home villages and towns. This method is proving to be effective, with 97% of children registered as living in the area now attending.
Thirty six (0.9%) children showed to be severely wasting, that is, their weight in relation to their height was too low. This is the same rate as in September 2017, which is an encouraging sign, as a consistently low rate is a solid basis to further reduction in rates. The first intervention for these severely malnourished children is to provide them with BP-100, a Ready to Use Nutritious Food (RUTF), which is given to parents in supplies which last no more than two weeks, to encourage them to return for the child’s condition to be monitored. “My daughter gained 500 grams in the past month, which is a relief” says Chanmony Kry, mother of one of the 36 children identified as severely malnourished, “she is still taking the supplement, but hopefully she doesn’t need to for much longer”. Unfortunately, families of two of the 36 children have moved to Thailand for work. Migration is a major roadblock to providing consistent healthcare to children in the area, and we can only hope that they are able to access appropriate care wherever they go.
This was the first year that we had funding to provide supplements to moderately malnourished children, something which we have been unable to do in the past. TGF provided village health support volunteers with cases of special soy milk, to disperse to the 853 children who need it. “These supplements are very important for people here” says Kosal Im, chief of one of the five commune health-centres we work in, “now, we can eliminate the risk of a child going from moderately wasted to severely wasted. They can improve in health rather than decline”.
When we started measuring wasting in early 2016, a total of almost 14% of children showed to be moderately or severely malnourished. Now, just under 10% of children are underweight for their height. With continued collaboration between TGF and health centres to provide appropriate health education, monitoring and interventions to pregnant women and new mothers, we hope to see these rates continue to drop.