Is­sue needs im­me­di­ate in­ter­ven­tion

Bhutan Times - - Editorial -

South Asia re­mains the epi­cen­ter of the global child wast­ing and stunt­ing crises. Se­vere wast­ing com­prises the abil­ity of chil­dren to grow and de­velop to their full po­ten­tial, con­tribut­ing to stunned growth and cog­ni­tive de­picts as well as in­creased mor­tal­ity risk. The costs of in­ac­tion to fam­i­lies and na­tion has been con­sid­er­able as stunned chil­dren earn 20 per cent less as adults as com­pared to non stunned con­strain­ing eco­nomic growth across the re­gion.

A re­gional work­shop to iden­tify ac­tions to ac­cel­er­ate progress in the care of se­verely wasted chil­dren which af­fects about 8 mil­lion chil­dren in South Asia was held in May this year jointly by the South Asian As­so­ci­a­tion for Re­gional Co­op­er­a­tion (SAARC) and the United Na­tion Chil­dren’s Fund (UNICEF) to iden­tify ac­tions to ac­cel­er­ate progress in the care of se­verely wasted chil­dren. It was the first time that the gov­ern­ment rep­re­sen­ta­tives, UN part­ners and civil so­ci­ety or­ga­ni­za­tions from across South Asia came to­gether to ex­change re­gional analy­ses, ex­per­tise and ex­pe­ri­ences on ad­dress­ing the wast­ing in the con­text of over­all nu­tri­tion pro­gram­ming.

As per UNICEF Bhutan have more than 2,100 chil­dren un­der the age of five who are se­verely wasted. Of the above only four per­cent re­ceives stan­dard treat­ment. Dur­ing the 12Th Five Year Plan Bhutan has set the tar­gets for wast­ing to less than 4.3 per cent and stun­ning to 15 per­cent as pri­or­ity to im­prove the po­ten­tial of hu­man cap­i­tal in the long term. To­wards achiev­ing these tar­gets a na­tional multi sec­toral strate­gic plan with ad­e­quate bud­get com­mit­ments for the key nu­tri­tion in­ven­tions is be­ing fi­nal­ized.

As re­marked by the SAARC sec­re­tary gen­eral the long term strate­gic goals in­vest­ing in the ca­pac­ity of the com­mu­ni­ties, com­mu­nity based or­ga­ni­za­tion and civil so­ci­ety groups to iden­tify and ad­dress un­der nu­tri­tion within the com­mu­ni­ties is a must for a col­lec­tive ap­proach to nu­tri­tion in South Asia. This will lead a long way in un­lock­ing the po­ten­tial of this gen­er­a­tion and the next.

The first pri­or­ity is to im­prove the diet of the mother be­fore and dur­ing preg­nancy, ac­tions to sup­port breast feed­ing and im­prove the food of the young chil­dren amongst oth­ers.

Bhutan has fo­cused only on fa­cil­ity based care. How­ever it has been sug­gested that for the pur­pose of fu­ture re­searches the fo­cus should be on ex­plor­ing home based ad­min­is­tra­tion of cul­tur­ally ap­pro­pri­ate and lo­cally de­vel­oped ready to use ther­a­peu­tic food to ini­ti­ate com­mu­nity based care ap­proaches.

Heath of­fi­cials claim that poverty, il­lit­er­acy and un­will­ing­ness to visit heath cen­ter where there are not enough fe­male nurses makes ru­ral women more shy in seek­ing med­i­cal help.

We need to ad­dress these is­sues im­me­di­ately soon as we can­not af­ford to have our chil­dren stunted and wasted.

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