The government’s efforts to curb malnutrition has begun to pay off as community health workers (CHWs) have continued to master the use of the mid upper arm circumference (MUAC), to identify malnourished young children.
The MUAC of children aged between six and 59 months provides the degree at which a child is healthy and can even predict mortality.
Research shows that it is equally good, if not better, than other measurements for screening young children and selecting those needing therapeutic feeding.
The MUAC tapes that were distributed to all CHWs in the country are made from plastic paper and are almost indestructible.
The tapes show colour-coded cut-off points indicating various levels of malnutrition for young children, and, on the back, suggest cut-off levels to identify at-risk pregnant women and adults with HIV/Aids or tuberculosis.
The development was disclosed during an exhibition of the CHWs’ activities in communities held in Kayonza, Rwamagana and Ngoma districts in Eastern Province.
CHWs have also helped families to plant vegetables, especially in kitchen gardens, to boost nutrition for children.
According to Claudette Mukamunana, a CHW in Mwurile Sector, Rwamagana District, the MUAC has been instrumental in identifying children with, or at risk of, acute malnutrition and adults with acute energy deficiency.
She said continuous use of the instrument has helped them to be efficient in detecting the health issue.
“The training we got and the instruments we use have checked malnutrition in communities. We give advice to families whose children we discover with malnutrition. There has been timely interventions to check the situation since we now know how to use the MUAC,” Mukamunana said.
The community health worker told The New Times that the MUAC tape allowed early detection and referral of children with malnutrition.
“In children aged six to 59 months, measuring below 110mm indicates severe malnutrition, which calls for immediate admission to therapeutic feeding programmes. Values between 110 and 120/125mm indicate moderate malnutrition. So, basing on detection a referral is made immediately”.
Alphonse Ngarambe, in-charge of health in Kayonza, said malnutrition usually stems from poverty and from ignorance of food chains.
Ngarambe said malnutrition was not only among the greatest public health problems in the country, but also a major contributing factor to social and economic under-development.
“The dissemination of the use of mid-upper-arm circumference (MUAC) was timely as far as case definitions, surveys, and patient monitoring were concerned,” he said.
Aphrodise Nambaje, the mayor of Ngoma, lauded the CHWs for their efforts, saying communities were developing as a result of their hard work.
“People weakened by malnutrition and disease do not have the energy to overcome poverty and are helpless to improve their own situation. That the CHWs are checking malnutrition today, we expect a faster pace in our efforts to develop communities,” Nambaje said.