UNICEF in mass screening for malnutrition: Hunger looms in Malawi

The United Nations children’s agency (UNICEF) said Tuesday it is carrying out a mass screening for malnutrition in children under five across the country amid reports of increasing hunger.

A girl is weighed at the Makhwira Health Centre in southern Malawi, where a growth monitoring clinic is screening children for malnutrition using a new text messaging system. Photo by  Jennifer Yang
A girl is weighed at the Makhwira Health Centre in southern Malawi, where a growth monitoring clinic is screening children for malnutrition using a new text messaging system. Photo by Jennifer Yang

Mahimbo Mdoe, UNICEF country representative, said in a statement made available to Nyasa Times that the mass screening – in 25 districts, 90 per cent of the country – comes after a recent Vulnerability Assessment, which revealed 2.8 million people in Malawi are in need of urgent food aid.

Malawi has been struggling to cope with prolonged drought, El Nino weather patterns, recovery from floods, a stagnant economy and the first maize deficit in a decade, UNICEF said.

“Although official figures are saying that malnutrition cases are not increasing, we know from past experience that this may not be the whole story,” Mdoe said in the statement.

“Hungry, desperate families may not have the means or resources to take sick children to be assessed. This mass screening will bring the services to them to ensure no child is left out.”

“We want to make sure that every child suffering from malnutrition gets access to life-saving treatment,” said the UNICEF Country Representative.

Currently, the malnutrition screening and treatment programme in Malawi is available in over 90% of districts but only 50 percent of the expected number of children are being seen and treated.

The mass screening for malnourished children is supported by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), and is one of several emergency response activities in the country, including food ration distribution supported by the World Food Programme.

UNICEF said despite food shortages the initial malnutrition figures showed a stable trend, except for the flood-hit districts of Chikwawa, Phalombe and Nsanje, where cases of malnutrition rose in the past three months.

But malnutrition is likely to increase “substantially” as the lean season reaches its peak in February and March, it said.

“Even if the rains are sufficient this growing season, families will still have to wait until March or April before the first crops are harvested,” Mdoe said. “That is a further four months of food insecurity, when young children are at increased risk of disease or even death.”

Malawi adopted the community management of acute malnutrition (CMAM) approach in 2002 as the most effective way of treating malnutrition in young children. The CMAM approach focuses on prevention at community level through raising awareness on malnutrition, screening all children and treating identified malnutrition cases using therapeutic milk and foods.

In Malawi, severe acute malnutrition (SAM) in the under-five malnutrition population is around 4 percent, although there are discrepancies across the country, with the flood affected districts in the south currently showing much higher rates.  Without treatment, severe acute malnutrition can be fatal for young children.

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Zanga Phee!
Zanga Phee!
6 years ago

If cloths of babies can contribute to increase of weight,how about that chitenje?please respect our innocent children weather they malnourished what so ever it is not their choice it is just a chance .In photography we took over five pictures then we choose one as the best,Manyasa team are you serious in exposing this baby to the world?you guys you are the one telling the world that Malawi is the poorest nation in Africa and world because of your too poor job.Don’t rush take your time.This is written stuff can stay for years, i mean who is the chief editor… Read more »

Gracious Grantelious
Gracious Grantelious
6 years ago

Nyasatimes, thanks for this story. I however would request you to use a better picture to tell your story. I do not think if the kid who is exposing her buttock was your son or daughter you would allow the editor to use that picture. What value does the exposed battock serve in this case?

Penani Unenesko
6 years ago

Thanks for this initiative but it should bring solutions to the problem,not just trips for fattening fatty cows

6 years ago

between the woman smiling and the man helping weighing the child who is UNICEF representative????? pliz help me.

6 years ago

Pamenepa timve ziti? NFRA’s manager recommending to the president that he should lift the ban on exporting maize because there is a surplus and on the other hand UNICEF carrying out this exercise. Confused.com

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