Time to address malnutrition

Editorial

OUR people need to be educated on the importance of food fortification, food production and livelihood if Papua New Guinea wants to grow its economy.
That is the reality we all have to face.
Malnutrition is a silent emergency in PNG and the underlying cause for the majority of deaths of children under the age of five.
This situation is seriously limiting not only a child’s growth outcome but also their future learning and income earning potential which further perpetuates the inter-generational cycle of malnutrition and poverty.
Children who suffer from malnutrition are likely to die of treatable diseases like diarrhoea and chest infections.
A child’s physical growth and mental development can become permanently impaired and, in severe cases, the child can die if malnutrition if not treated.
With the coronavirus on reports forecast, the Covid-19 could tip about 130 million more people into chronic hunger.
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 in the health sector but it is an obligation for all concerned sectors to allocate resources to their respective nutrition sector interventions.
It is essential to put in place the necessary conditions to detect and treat severe malnutrition cases as quickly as possible
PNG’s National Nutrition Policy (2016-2026) is currently in place to address malnutrition issues in children through a multi-sectoral approach.
Coordinated by the Government, this milestone policy brings together a range of stakeholders including the public sector, institutions, academia, private sector, development partners, civil society, media and communities to deliver optimal nutrition outcomes.
That plan will need the political commitment from the Government to drive it.
A well-planned and well-executed long term project can accelerate the developmental process and the benefits can be rewarding and permanent.
Nutritional planning involves formulation of a nutrition 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 may include land reforms, proper guidance in agriculture to help farmers to get better yields from their lands and help in proper marketing of farm produce.
This will lead to the need for an improved health care system.
Infections like malaria, measles and diarrhoea are prevalent in our society and they precipitate acute malnutrition among children and infants.
A good healthcare 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.
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.
Malnutrition situation must be addressed through comprehensive management systems as it is a serious and often a life-threatening condition with terrible consequences.
We can talk about so many things but if malnutrition is not addressed, it will be a wasted effort.

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