Address malnutrition in PNG


MALNUTRITION should be addressed in the country before we talk about growing the economy.
It is an emergency and should be prioritised by both the Government and its many multilateral and bilateral donors.
The Government has taken a positive step with the launching of the National Nutrition Policy (NNP) and Strategic Action Plan (NSAP) last year however, it cannot tackle a challenge of this scale alone.
It needs all donors and partners to reallocate technical and financial assistance to support targeted interventions to improve child nutrition.
Otherwise, malnutrition will continue to undermine the great human and economic potential of PNG.
Malnutrition is the underlying cause for the majority of deaths of children under the age of five.
This situation is seriously limiting not only children’s growth outcomes but also their future learning and income earning potential which further perpetuates the inter-generational cycle of malnutrition and poverty.
A child’s physical growth and mental development can become permanently impaired and in severe cases, the child can die if malnutrition is not treated.
Malnutrition occurs when poor consumption of nutritious food threatens the healthy functioning of the body and its organs.
Symptoms include underweight, physical stunting, muscle wasting, weak ability to mentally concentrate and increased vulnerability in children to illnesses, such as pneumonia and diarrhoea.
Malnutrition cannot be addressed just by the health sector but it is an obligation for all concerned sectors to allocate resources to their respective nutrition sector interventions.
The population needs to be educated on the importance of food fortification, food production and livelihood if PNG wants to grow its economy.
It is essential to put in place the necessary conditions to detect and treat severe malnutrition cases as quickly as possible.
Nutritional planning involves formulation of the policy and overall long term planning to improve production and supplies of food, ensure its equitable distribution and programmers to increase the purchasing power of people.
This will also lead to the need for an improved health care system.
A good health care system that provides immunisation, oral rehydration, periodic deworming, early diagnosis and proper treatment of common illnesses can go a long way in preventing malnutrition in the society.
Prevention of malnutrition at the community level is the best way to avoid children dying from malnutrition.
People need to be educated on the nutritional quality of common foods, importance and nutritional quality of various locally available and culturally accepted low cost foods, importance of exclusive breastfeeding for six months and continuing to breast feed up to two years or beyond and importance of immunising their children and following proper sanitation in their day to day life. Malnutrition situation should be addressed through comprehensive management system as it is a serious and often life threatening condition with terrible consequences.
The population need to be educated on the importance of food fortification, food production and livelihood. And the access to clean water and sanitation should also be in place concurrently.
We can talk about so many things but if malnutrition is not addressed, it will be a wasted effort.
Interestingly, head of the UN health agency, World Health Organisation wrote a list of challenges and pointed out that leaders are not committing sufficient resources to health, and are putting lives, livelihoods and economies in jeopardy. We concur with him also that there are no shortcuts to a healthier world.

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