Last week the Prime Minister launched a Malnutrition Awareness Week, and I saw his picture in The New Times giving milk to some children as a way of communicating to the mothers of children below the age of five years that milk has all the nutrients needed in a child’s body to fight off diseases brought about by malnutrition.
Again, last week attending the umuganda (community activity) meeting in my umudugudu (village), we were astonished when the person in charge of health matters in my area informed us that in Gasabo it is recorded that Kimironko has the highest number of children suffering from Kwashiorkor. I almost shed tears at this news. Parents with children under the age of five years were advised to keep a kitchen garden where they can grow vegetables. They were also highly encouraged to give their children milk on a daily basis to ward off diseases such as Kwashiorkor.
According to the web, a new United Nations report says that ten children die every minute as a result of malnutrition. More than a quarter of children in developing countries is underweight and suffers disease because of their poor diet, and in some areas almost half of all under-fives are malnourished. Now this can be very scary, but unfortunately it’s the truth.
Talk of ignorance; after the meeting at my umudugudu last Saturday I heard one lady commenting about feeding her children a lot of food; meaning they were out of danger of suffering from malnutrition. That is when I realised people still don’t know that when a child suffers from malnutrition it is not about how much food they consume but the quality of food they consume. The food can be a lot but with insufficient vitamins or proteins in it to help the child grow normally-it is futile.
The World Health Organization cites malnutrition as the greatest single threat to the world’s public health. Improving nutrition is widely regarded as the most effective form of aid. Emergency measures include providing deficient micronutrients through fortified sachet powders, such as peanut butter, or directly through supplements.
Some people think that malnutrition takes place overnight. Contrary to that -general malnutrition often develops slowly, over months or years. As the body’s store of nutrients is depleted, changes begin to happen at the cellular level, affecting biochemical processes and decreasing the body’s ability to fight infections.
Over time, a variety of symptoms may begin to emerge, these include; Weight loss, Anaemia, decreased muscle mass, and weakness, Oedema, dry scaly skin, Hair that has lost its pigment, Brittle and malformed (spooned) nails, Chronic diarrhoea, Slow wound healing, Bone and joint pain, Growth retardation (in children), Mental changes such as confusion, irritability and goitre.
Parents should be encouraged to buy for their children foods like milk, fresh fruits like (bananas, avocadoes, oranges, watermelon, mangoes, passion fruit, pawpaw and pineapples). Fresh vegetables like kales, spinach and red cabbages to supplement on what the children eat on daily basis- all these are readily available at our local Kimironko market.
Malnutrition continues to be a significant problem all over the world, especially among children. Let us support our government for all the efforts in creating malnutrition awareness. Men should be encouraged to cut off their budget of consuming alcohol and instead increase on the budget of foods for their children so that they can have a balanced diet for better growth.