WHAT ABOUT MALNUTRITION?
You have lost your home, walked for days, and eaten whatever you have been able to find on the way. Members of your family may have contracted malaria or measles, or had a severe chest infection. Is it any wonder that your siblings or children are becoming malnourished?
Malnutrition is not the same as hunger. It is a disease that primarily affects children under the age of five when their rapidly-growing bodies do not receive the right balance of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Without this balanced diet, deficiencies can lead to life-threatening conditions like wasting and make children more susceptible to other diseases.
If you are lucky, aid agencies or local authorities may be there to help. They measure the upper arms of children under five with a device called the mid-upper-arm circumference (MUAC) bracelet. After more thorough screenings, including measurements of the children’s weight and height, you may be given ready-to-use food (RUF). This milk-based paste includes nutrients, vitamins, and minerals to help your children or siblings recover from malnutrition or to prevent it. You will need to bring the children back to the clinic once a week for a check-up. Only those with additional serious medical complications will need to be hospitalised in a paediatric intensive care unit.
But your chances of receiving RUF are slim: only three percent of the world’s 20 million severely malnourished children who need RUF are currently receiving it.