A report on the Nutrition Budget performance for the First Quarter of 2019 has revealed that Under 5 Card documents used to monitor weight gain or loss in children have been out of stock for close to a year now in most government health facilities.
A check in most government health facilities in Lusaka, Central, Copperbelt, Luapula and Western provinces by the Civil Society Scaling Up Nutrition Alliance revealed that the cards were not available in the five provinces and mothers were using exercise books making growth monitoring in children next to impossible.
Presenting the report to the Expanded Committee on estimates Chaired by Mbala Member of Parliament Mwalimu Simfukwe, Alliance National Coordinator, Mathews Mhuru said the absence of the cards in health facilities is putting the lives of children at risk.
Mr. Mhuru told the Committee that this is a big problem that requires urgent attention from authorities as failure to address it poses more stress on the curative side of the health sector, as many avoidable illnesses would be unnoticed.
“There have been no under five cards and it was shocking to see that mothers are given books, we actually had to look at the books and what kind of information is in put in those books which is very embarrassing,”Mr. Mhuru said
He added that the mother would know when the graph is not going well, that at this particular point they might actually need to get some nutrition, counselling or health on what they should do to get the graph going up again.
Mr. Mhuru also informed the Committee that ready to Use Therapeutic Foods have been out of stock for close to a year now with only a few donated by UNICEF available in selected health facilities in the country.
He complained that the situation is increasing the likelihood of deaths of children with severe and acute malnutrition if the relevant authorities won’t come on board to curb the situation.
Mr. Mhuru noted with concern that with the management of moderate and severe malnutrition budget line not included in the 2019 Yellow Book, trends are already beginning to show increasing difficulty in managing cases of severe acute malnutrition which have begun to increase.
He has since recommended the inclusion of Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food in the Essential Medicines List, immediate printing and countrywide distribution of Under 5 cards, consistent disbursement of grants to the National Food and Nutrition Commission and commitment of K400 per under-five child in order to prevent the damage malnutrition may have on future generations.