Our Sindh campaign
By: A. Sami Malik
Mithi, Tharparkar district, Sindh – May 2015: Having a child who is frail and falls sick frequently is nothing new for Pushpa (27). She is a mother to three young girls and very conscious about their health. As she waits patiently at a UNICEF-supported nutrition centre for her third born seven-month-old daughter Lata to be examined for her nutritional status, her mind goes back to the time when her older daughters were growing up. They, too, had the same health issues, low birth weight, feeble appearance, lethargic, demeanour and catching infections frequently. She wonders, why couldn’t her children be healthier?
“Raising children has not been easy for me,” says Pushpa. “Each one of my daughters was underweight at the time of birth and I had to take them to the doctor frequently as they would often fall sick. I have brought Lata for a check-up because she is weak and cries all the time. I want her to be examined and hope to get those packets (therapeutic food) they give for children. It fills up their stomach and makes them active.”
Pushpa is a resident of Meghwar Paro, a village in Tharparkar district in the famous Thar Desert which spans over 120,000 square miles across the Indo-Pak subcontinent. Though only 15 per cent of the desert lies in Pakistan, high rates of child mortality largely due to acute malnutrition pose a major challenge to the local authorities, humanitarian organisations and civil society groups working in the area.
At the nutrition centre in Meghwar Paro, the nutrition level of children and women, who are either pregnant or breastfeeding their babies, is assessed by conducting the Mid-upper Arm Circumference (MUAC) test and by measuring their height and weight. Children with Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) are admitted to the Outpatient Therapeutic Programme (OTP) and children with Moderate Acute Malnutrition (MAM) are admitted to the Targeted Supplementary Feeding Programme (TSFP). Micronutrients and medication is provided for children who are acutely malnourished and unwell due to minor illnesses. In case the illness is complicated, the child is referred to the Stabilization Centre (SC) established in the District Headquarter Hospital Mithi, the capital city of Tharparkar District.
Lata’s height, weight and MUAC reveal that her undernutrition status is severe. She is registered in the OTP and sachets of Ready to Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) are provided which is high energy peanut paste therapeutic food containing essential micronutrients to help increase the nutrition level of a child within a short period of time.