Sierra Leone News: “High levels of stunted growth in under-5 children” – WHO

front page 19According to the WHO annual report on Sierra Leone, this country has very high levels of under-five stunting at 28.2%. Forty-five percent of women are anemic. Seventy percent of pregnant women are anemic and ¾’s of all children are anemic.
The Scaling-Up Nutrition program under the Office of the Vice-President indicates stunting of under-five children is 37.9%. Low birth weight babies are 7.1%. The WHO estimates approximately 45% of childhood deaths are associated with malnutrition.
These appalling statistics have spurred the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, WHO and other partners to roll out a range of activities that aim to improve nutrition throughout the life cycle.
WHO is providing particular support to the Directorate of Food and Nutrition through the Accelerated Nutrition Improvements and Healthy Growth Projects.
Clinical Nutritionist, Nusratu Coker explained that last year, “we had a very high success rate in managing malnutrition at the in-patient facility in Moyamba District. During the year we had 92 admissions and over 90% treatment success rate.”
Adding, “despite the availability of therapeutic foods, most of the children reach the hospital at a very late stage, even after they have been referred by the health facilities.”
“We have been working with our community engagement colleagues to address this challenge, so that parents are encouraged to bring their children for prompt treatment as soon as they are referred by the health workers. We are working closely with multiple partners in the district and we have received invaluable support including trainings, equipment and supervision, all of which are helping us to reduce the incidence of  malnutrition among
children,” she explained.
In Moyamba District, Saibatu Mattia is the benefactor of her late sister’s twin. She explained “When my 18-year old sister died in August, one month after giving birth to her twin babies, I became the mother of the kids. It has been very challenging ever since. In December the children became very ill and anemic. We would have lost them but they were admitted and spent two weeks here in Moyamba Hospital where the children were treated for malnutrition.
Upon discharge we were given guidance on what and when to feed the children and we are also getting regular follow ups from the nurses.”
Notwithstanding the stark reality of malnutrition, the MoHS last year conducted trainings for 39 nutritionist and partners on monitoring, preventing and reducing childhood stunting at the community level.
A further 200 health facility staff received training in monitoring of childhood growth using a revised training manual and a user guide was developed on the use of the child health card for reporting childhood health and nutritional status.
Annual and quarterly nutrition surveillance reports were produced throughout 2016 with the aim of monitoring trends in malnutrition, while a national perception survey highlighted improved perceptions among the country’s Nutritionist on surveillance activities, especially the use of WHO Child Growth Standards.
Following the completion of a 2015 pilot study, a quarterly screening programme was rolled out in five communities in Western Area Rural in 2016 to assess stunting and malnutrition. Through mother support groups, simple height for age and arm measurement tools enabled screening of children under five years of age with support of counseling and referrals where needed.
Out of 896 children screened, results indicated that 14.2% were severely stunted. A total of 771 children aged 6 to 59 months were also screened for malnutrition, with 2.1% found to be severely wasted and referred to health facilities. In 2017, this approach will be expanded to broaden nutritional surveillance to ten communities in the district.
At the national level, the Directorate of Food and Nutrition was supported to conduct an annual nutrition review meeting and produce the country’s 2016 Action Plan. Developed by the Ministry with support from partners, other key guidelines and publications produced or updated in 2016 include: the Maternal, Infant and Young Child Feeding Guidelines; the Sierra Leone Food Based Dietary Guidelines for Healthy Eating; National Nutritional Guidelines for Tuberculosis and People Living with HIV/AIDS, and a counseling package for community workers on Maternal Infant and Young Child Nutrition. Briefs on a new Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes were also created which will now be tabled with the relevant line ministries.
By Ophaniel Gooding
Awoko Wednesday, April 19, 2017.

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