The eyes of men: toxicity & ridicule
Rose Kekedo’s string of firsts

Malnutrition: What you need to know and do

Highlands child (Scott Waide)BARBARA ANGORO
| My Land, My Country

AUCKLAND - Couple of things but I’d like to talk about. First, the kind of food we are giving our babies and, second, the implications of being an underweight baby.

We all can be advocates for our future generation. If you have a family member who is under five, be that child’s advocate.

Pay attention to the kinds of foods being given to the child. Junk food like Cheesepops and fizzy drinks or just one type of food (for example, a piece of kaukau as a main meal) are not healthy and people must not think they are enough for the kid.

Sure, kids have a small stomach capacity, but we must ensure they take small portions of all the important food groups.

Getting the right kinds of food at this young age helps with children’s normal physical and mental development. We need a population that is healthy physically and mentally to contribute to a better Papua New Guinea.

What happens when a child is moderate to severely underweight? Hospitalisation is the usual go-to intervention for severely underweight children.

Our health workers manage as best as possible with interventions to bring the weight up to normal.

Mind you, it’s not as straightforward as it sounds. Children can, and most times will develop complications as a result of being underweight, so these must be taken care of as well.

Beyond the hospital, the effects of being underweight can affect the future of a child and their ability to learn and earn.

Why am I going on about all this? Simple: PNG has a health system that has enough to deal with already.

We can all help the health system by helping our kids to be healthy so they avoid ending up in hospital with a condition that can be avoided.

Our nation has organic foods that are amongst the best in the world. Let’s all start advocating for healthy foods for our babies.

If you’re not sure what the best foods are, don’t hesitate to ask the staff at MCHC {Maternal and Child Heal Care).

Which reminds me, please advocate for the babies-kids in your family to go for regular MCHC visits so that important things like child weight are regularly taken.

If there were early signs of continuous weight loss, early intervention would be given rather than waiting until the child is not doing well.

Malnutrition is defined in the Oxford dictionary as “lack of proper nutrition, caused by not having enough to eat, not eating of the right things, or being unable to use the food that one does eat.”

Malnutrition is a term that covers undernutrition (wasting, stunting, underweight), micro-nutrient related malnutrition and overweight (WHO Fact Sheet 2020).

There is a problem of underweight in children under five years of age in our beautiful country. Whether many people in PNG realise it or not, we have children under five who suffer from moderate to severe underweight in our country.

Yes! You read that correct.

Our kids are hospitalised because their precious little bodies do not have the proper nutrition to develop physically and mentally. In a worst case scenario, children die because of being severely underweight. A 2018 UNICEF report highlights undernutrition as a big challenge in PNG.

PNG’s health sector performance annual review (SPAR) has an indicator that tracks undernutrition.

Over the past five years, the bad news revealed by this indicator barely changed.

(Note: I understand there are health conditions that affect how a child absorbs important nutrients for growth. This post does not cover these kids. It concerns those who are not fed properly or not given the right types of foods to eat. In addition, there is a socioeconomic contribution to underweight and undernourishment but I have not touched upon that.)

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