A Full Continuum of Care for Children with Malnutrition
Infants and children, whose developing brains and bodies desperately need enough calories, protein, and nutrients to grow properly, are extremely vulnerable to seasonal malnutrition. Despite years of community nutrition education and interventions by HAS staff, chronic malnutrition remains high in our service region. Overall, 24% of the children in the Lower Artibonite Valley have stunted growth, while 16% of all children are underweight.
While HAS community health workers screen an estimated 96% of children in the HAS service area for malnutrition in an effort to detect this debilitating condition and treat it early, unfortunately, HAS still sees a significant number of children with malnutrition at the hospital’s six outpatient nutrition treatment sites and at the hospital itself. Last year, 589 children were treated for malnutrition as outpatients, and nearly 200 children were admitted to the hospital with severe, acute malnutrition.
Inpatient treatment of severe, acute malnutrition can take weeks. Children are helped in their recovery with a therapeutic milk regimen meant to help them slowly re-adapt to digesting nutrients. Parents or guardians participate in daily education sessions and cooking classes, learning from HAS nurses what constitutes a balanced diet, how to prepare food to be most nutritious, as well as the importance of hygiene.
Eventually, children in treatment for malnutrition transition to Plumpy’nut™, a fortified peanut butter paste that contains protein and essential vitamins and minerals. Once the child stabilizes in the hospital, they are discharged to the community based malnutrition program where they continue to receive Plumpy’nut and come to a weekly appointment to be monitored and the parent continues to receive education and encouragement.