Malnutrition ‘prevalent’ in children in urban settings: StudyChild Nutrition Rehabilitation Home in Lumbini Provincial Hospital treated 61 children suffering from malnutrition in the current fiscal year.
Doctors advised Muna to admit her son to the hospital’s Child Nutrition Rehabilitation Home for treatment. Eighteen days into treatment, Ishwor weighed 10.3kg.
“The doctors have advised me to keep my son at the rehabilitation home until his weight reaches 11.5kg,” said Muna. “I was breastfeeding him at first but my milk wasn’t enough. So I started feeding him packaged milk from the market; he didn’t seem to like it. Gradually, he started snacking on junk food. I think that’s what led to his malnutrition,” said Muna.
Established by the Child Health Division on the hospital premises seven years ago, the Child Nutrition Rehabilitation Home provides free treatment and nutritious foods to babies (aged between 6 months and 5 years) and also teaches postpartum mothers to prepare and feed nutritious foods to their babies.
Meena Thapa, a nursing mother, is also at the Child Nutrition Rehabilitation Home with her eight-month-old daughter. A month ago, her daughter was just 4kg. “Having been treated at the rehabilitation home, my daughter now weighs 5.3kg,” said Thapa, recalling problems breastfeeding her daughter.
Sixty-one children have been treated in the rehabilitation home in the current fiscal year. There are seven mothers and their malnourished children at the centre. Children with mild malnutrition will be kept for a month to 45 days for treatment. If the malnourished children do not gain weight consistently within the set time frame, they can extend their stay by another 45 days.
The rehabilitation home has a daily routine for all mothers and children. Ishwori Thapa, a nurse at the centre, said they start the day by feeding milk to the children at 3am. The children are fed porridge at 7am; eggs at 8am; rice and pulses at 10am; milk at 1pm; beaten rice or rice pudding at 4pm; rice and pulses at 7pm; potato pickle; tomatoes and coriander with porridge at 10pm, according to Thapa. “There are employees to cook the meals,” she said, adding that nursing mothers are also taught to prepare meals for children in the kitchen.
Pratikshya Thapa, who is in charge at the rehabilitation home, said malnutrition in children could be minimised if one can take care of eating and feeding habits of both the children and their mothers. “Family members should take care of pregnant women and their nutrition to save children from malnutrition,” she said, stressing that a child should be fed breast milk until six months.
A recent study by Helen Keller International shows that Nepali children are getting a quarter of their calories from junk food. While over-consumption of junk food is often associated with obesity, the study found links to malnutrition and stunting as well. Researchers from Helen Keller International conducted a study on families of 745 children in the Valley, testing the nutritional effects of snack consumption.
According to the Nepal Demographic Health Survey of 2016, 36 percent of children under the age of five were suffering from chronic malnutrition. While 10 percent were suffering from acute malnutrition, another 27 percent were underweight and one percent overweight, the study found.