Solomon Islands will lead the region in tackling severe acute malnutrition (SAM) following a first ever training on integrated management in the country and the region starting yesterday.
Speaking at the opening of the one week training, chief of UNICEF Solomon Islands field office Yun Jong Kang said this training is important seeing the country’s need to address worrying malnutrition issues of children under five.
Mr Kang said this training on the integrated management of SAM for facility based linked to community based management, will be the first of its kind in the South Pacific.
He said the country’s experience of natural disasters over the years is real concern which contributes to the country’s cumulative adverse impact on the nutritional status of children.
Adding figures have indicated a real need for proper training, resources and infrastructure to tackle the problem of severe acute malnutrition in the country especially during the aftermath of natural disasters like the recent flash floods.
He said some children that were measured in the community during the mass screening for malnutrition, were also reported as having moderate and severe acute malnutrition.
“These conditions reduce children’s resistance to infections, and if not given the appropriate treatment, can be fatal. During the recent floods, at least 5 infant deaths were recorded, with cause of death cited as severe acute malnutrition,” Mr Kang said.
He pointed out that a baseline (pre-disaster) DHS survey in 2007 showed 11.8% underweight, 4.3% wasting, 33% stunting, and 49% children under 5 were anemic.
He said the implication for high rates of stunting was due to children being exposed to chronic under-nutrition.
“…it was apparent that the Paediatric Ward needed to be properly resourced technically (knowledge, skills and practice) physically (infrastructure wise and equipment) and with human resource to enhance their capacity to treat SAM cases, based on appropriate lifesaving treatment which are globally recommended practices,” Mr Kang added.
The UNICEF boss said UNICEF will continue to support and enhance the capacity of the MHMS, especially regarding the management of SAM, and the plan to have an integrated approach to the management of SAM in the Solomon Islands.
“We hope that this training marks the beginning of a professional relationship with them and their Medical Institution, to provide mentoring and professional assistance to strengthen our child health programming and activities in the Solomon Islands.
Mr Kang said pilot sites for community management of SAM, without medical complications, will be set up by HCC and Guadalcanal province health units following the training.
He is hopeful that participants can show case the Solomon Islands practice for integrated management of SAM to the rest of the Pacific.
“More importantly, the children of the Solomon Islands will now receive the appropriate treatment for SAM, whether at the facility or at home,” Kang added.
The training is funded by UNICEF including facilitators who came all the way from India. Thirty participants comprised of health workers in Honiara and Provinces have attended.
BY DANIEL NAMOSUAIA