Malnutrition can affect affluent kids too

Published On: February 1, 2017 03:04 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

JHAPA, Jan 31: Anuja Shivakoti of Dhulabari is a doting mother. She hardly ever refuses to serve food items that her children demand. Additionally, she has her own farm where fresh vegetables and grains are grown. A big joint family is always at the disposal of the children to take care of their needs. Given all this, her kids should have been the last to be affected by malnutrition related illnesses. However, to her great dismay, she was told by doctor last month that her youngest 17-month-old child's health problem was directly related to malnutrition.

“It was really difficult for me to understand this. I never knew my child would be affected by malnutrition. I was feeding milk and food items that are considered nutritious in our community,” said Anuja, who is a teacher by profession.  

Following the illness, her son was taken to the Mechi Zonal Hospital. After several tests, doctors confirmed that he needed help to fight against malnutrition. “Malnutrition is supposed to be common among kids from poor families. But that's not always the case,” said Rabin Regmi, a doctor at the hospital. “Due to the lack of awareness on what and how to feed children, many parents unknowingly make young children victims of malnutrition,” he added. 

After a month long intensive care at the hospital, Anuja's son began to feel better. He gained weight and even saw improvements in height. Similarly, he is showing healthy symptoms. He would play more joyfully and enjoyed eating.

Hima Pathak's 15-month-old son weighs only seven kg. A resident of Laxmipur, doctors also diagnosed her child of suffering from severe malnutrition. “I was told that my child's weight is too low and that he was suffering from malnutrition,” she said. Pathak was also not very comfortable to hear that nutrition deficiency was bothering her child as she was a very attentive mom, too. “I used to feed him on time and in enough quantity. He was looking weak, but I did not know he was suffering from nutrition deficiency,” she added.

Another parent quite upset about child's health is Puja Hemram from Bhadrapur. Her son is also 15-month-old and is suffering from poor health. “They say it is due to malnutrition,” said Hemram, whose son is just eight kg. 

One-year-old daughter of Nirmala Gautam weighs just 6.8 kg. She was admitted to the hospital a few days ago. She is getting treatment at the nutrition rehabilitation center of the hospital. “Her weight was very less. After coming here, she gained some weight,” medical staffs tending to the child at the hospital shared. 

Currently, eight children are receiving treatment at the center where parents are given advice and training on feeding children. The service including the stay is provided for free by the hospital.

Ganga Limbu, manager of the center stated that children from middle class families who are 'well fed' by mothers also commonly suffer from malnutrition. She added that the lower class or the poorest section, in fact, do not make it to the hospital. “The poor people have many reasons not to visit hospital. We have dealt with children from well off families here. They provide enough food to kids, but do so without proper knowledge on nutrition,” she said.

The hospital runs health camps from time to time. Mother and babies that show symptoms of malnourishment during the health camps are invited to visit the nutrition rehabilitation center where elders are provided with knowledge on nutritional needs of children. “This is a free service. Children below five-years-old and their mothers are admitted here and given necessary advice and medical care,” she said.

Child health specialist Dr Karna Sapkota stated that even educated parents fail to ensure good health of their children. Inadequate knowledge over health and nutrition leads to fatal consequences, he said. 

“Sometimes even children who have rich and well educated parents can be victim of malnutrition because of their parent's ignorance about their nutritional needs,” Dr Sapkota said. “Children suffer both mentally and physically when they are not being supplied with necessary amount of protein, vitamin, and minerals, among others. If child's hair color changes to brown, that's even dangerous,” he added. 

Dr Sapkota further stated that irritating behavior of kids is an indication of malnourishment. If baby cries too often, does not remains joyful, lacks interest in food or sleeps excessively, it might be because of malnutrition, he added. 

Raju Adhikari/Republica 

Children suffering from malnutrition play in premises of Mechi Zonal Hospital. The Nutrition Rehabilitation Center at the hospital provides free treatment to such children. 

Breaker =====

Sometimes even children who have rich and well educated parents can be victim of malnutrition because of their parent's ignorance about their nutritional needs.

Dr Karna Sapkota

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