Supporting conflict-affected children suffering from malnutritionPublished: May 2, 2022 Reading time: 4 minutes
People in Need (PIN) aims to scale up its lifesaving nutrition services for displaced people in Rakhine State. To do so we regularly train community volunteers and staff to effectively identify and prevent malnutrition.
For example, May Htar Swe is nearly three years old and participates in PIN’s nutrition programme thanks to financial support from the Myanmar Humanitarian Fund (MHF). She lives in the Tin Htein Kan displacement site with her four siblings. In January 2022, PIN’s field team and our community volunteers conducted their monthly mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) screening for children aged 6 months to 59 months in targeted displacement sites in Mrauk U township. During one of the screenings, May Htar Swe was found to have moderate acute malnutrition (MAM).
May Htar Swe is the youngest child in her family and was born at the Tein Nyo Station hospital, Mrauk U township, Rakhine State. Her mother, Daw Yin Ma Oo (45), says, “I was exclusively breastfeeding her during the first six months of her life, and always prepared healthy foods when she reached the age to start complementary feeding. But she didn’t have an appetite and ate little food. She has been tiny since she was born. Being a mother and living in the displacement site, I try hard to feed my children nutritious food, but everything has been difficult since we arrived here.”
Collaborative nutrition services for malnourished children
In collaboration with Myanmar Health Assistant Association (MHAA), PIN referred May Htar Swe to MHAA’s Outpatient Therapeutic Programme (OTP) at Wet Hla IDP site, which provided her with Ready-to-Use Supplementary Food (RUSF). RUSF is a food supplement that is intended to be eaten for two or three months alongside regular food.
In addition, PIN and our nutrition community volunteers conducted regular follow-up visits to May Htar Swe. They provided infant and young child feeding (IYCF) counseling to her mother about safe, nutritious cooking methods, food preparation, and characteristics of complementary feeding, as well as important caring and hygiene practices. PIN also provided funding for transportation and meal costs for both the child and her mother to cover the costs of necessary travel during treatment.
Daw Yin Ma Oo is thankful to PIN and our community volunteers, “After 4 or 5 weeks of outpatient treatment at MHAA’s OTP, my daughter is improving and reaching normal measurements during the MUAC screening. We thank PIN for covering transportation costs and other costs associated with the OTP clinic. Also, PIN has provided us with nutritious foods, such as vegetable cooking oil and things like hand soap, toothbrushes, and other nutrition services. I am happy that she is healthy now, has gained weight, and has also gotten her appetite back.”
Community volunteer approaches to nutrition services
Using various community volunteer approaches, PIN has trained volunteers on things such as basic nutrition concepts, IYCF practices, detection of malnutrition through MUAC measurement, the organisation of mother support groups and capacity building to conduct community awareness-raising workshops. Ma Phyu Phyu Htay, a nutrition community volunteer, says, “Since I live in the same displacement site, I can regularly monitor the children’s status until they reach the normal nutrition status measurement by MUAC, which is 12.8 centimetres. I am really happy and proud of myself that I can support the community.”
Ko Wai Yan Aung, PIN’s Nutrition Technical Officer, explains the current situation of the nutrition programme, “After informing the community that a volunteer has identified a MAM case, one of our nutrition field officers visits the Tin Htein Kan IDP site to confirm the case. Then we refer this case to MHAA’s OTP and collaborate to supply supplementary food by MHAA. In addition, we provide money to cover the costs of visits to the clinic for the affected family. This is in accordance with our standard operating procedure for the nutrition programme. Now that May Htar Swe is in normal condition, we’ve awarded her mother a counselling gift. We provide these gifts to those who’ve been affected by moderated acute malnutrition in some way and have cured it.”
Ko Wai Yan Aung adds, “With help from our community volunteers, PIN has organised the formation of eighteen mother support groups in nine displacement sites in Mrauk U township. Discussion-based mother support groups bring together mothers of children under the age of five, pregnant women, and lactating women to provide a safe space to promote IYCF practices. These practices include exclusive breastfeeding, complementary feeding for children six months of age, safe cooking methods, and hygiene and caring practices on a weekly basis.”
From January to March 2022, PIN has conducted continuous MUAC screenings for a total of 255 boys and 296 girls and plans to raise awareness about key IYCF practices and the importance of good nutrition through a series of community events which have been organised by community volunteers and PIN’s field team in April 2022.