Ignorance kills child patients of malnutrition in Tanzania

21Feb 2017
Angel Navuri
The Guardian
Ignorance kills child patients of malnutrition in Tanzania

A two year old girl in Kagera Region recently died of malnutrition in an absurd situation of an abundant food.

Nutritionists say the girl; Maryline Rwagiza would have survived had it not been for her parent’s ignorance in foods choice. They would make sure that the food in the house was always enough to feed Maryline whose health had long started to deteriorate, only that they were not aware their second born suffered from malnutrition.

And the doctor who attended the little girl could no longer save her life as her condition was too severe to succumb to the two day treatment at the hospital.

“l didn’t know that she was suffering from malnutrition thought it was ordinary sickness until her father and l decided to take her to hospital asher condition worsened….but it was too late” said the mother Joseline Rwagiza who could not hold her tears amid the shocking incident.
But nutritionists believe what killed Maryline was nothing short of her parents’ lack of dietary planning and an apparent inability to their kid a balance diet.

They say Maryline’s case is not unique in the region whose 52 percent of its children under 5 in par with Dodoma, Mwanza ,Kigoma,Mbeya,Dar es Salaam,Geita ,Tabora,Ruvuma and Lindi regions suffer from malnutrition owing to the same cause as of the dead girl’s.

According to the report on the national conducted last year by the Regional Nutrition Development (RND) the rate of stunting stood at 34.7 percent in those regions, with the general poor health rate going to as high as 59 percent cases on anemia.

The RND Officer, Paul Makali attributes malnutrition and prevalence of stunting to mothers lack of education in balanced diet and in the importance of breast feeding.

“The first 1,000 days of a child’s life are very crucial .The brain develops rapidly, laying the foundation of future cognitive and social ability “he says implying the role of education in preventing malnutrition.

He blames broken marriages; gender based violence and forced marriages in nutritious problems, saying mothers are denied enough time to look after their new born babies in the prevalence of such circumstances.

“But cultural norms and lack of knowledge among women in Kagera Region are among the reasons why they do not receive support they need to start breastfeeding immediately after the baby is born,”Makali says

“Giving babies other liquids or foods may be another reason why breastfeeding is delayed .we have to intensify our efforts so that many more Tanzanian children and their mothers benefit from optimal breastfeeding practices, “he adds

But 161 milion chronically undernourished children globally are not getting the right nutrients and care at the right time,says RND report

It is in Kagera where the World Breastfeeding Week was conducted at the national level along with the national level along with the national Nane Nane Farmers Day in August last year .
Kagera Regional Commissioner(RC) Salim Kijuu wonders why his region reputed for its rich food reserves is branded as of the Tanzania’s leaders in malnutrition among children.

He says several Community Health workers (CHW) are currently undergoing a one year cause at Nyakahanga District Designated Hospital (DDH) in Karagwe District and Rubya Designated Hospital (DDH)in Muleba District in a bid to educate women on the importance of early breastfeeding.

Breast milk is a baby’s first vaccine, the first and best protection they have against illness and disease accounting for nearly half of all deaths of children under five ,says the report.

Delaying breastfeeding by 2-23 hours after birth increases the risk of dying in the first 28 days of life by 40 percent and delaying it by 24 hours of more increases the risk to 80 percent.
In Tanzania only one out of two children aged 0-23 months benefit from early initiation of breastfeeding the report says.

Depriving them of the essential nutrients, antibodiesand skin to skin bonding contact on their mother that protect them from disease and death ,less than 41 percent of children ,less than six months old were exclusively breastfed in 2014.

In some areas like Ruvuma and Tanga, the figure is as low as 25 per cent and in Zanzibar 20 per cent of children were exclusively breastfed, with Pemba as low as 10 per cent. Around the world, only 43 per cent of infants under six months old are exclusively breastfed. Babies who are not breastfed at all are 14 times more likely to die than those who are fed only breast milk. But any amount of breast milk reduces a child's risk of death.

Babies who received no breast milk at all are seven times more likely to die from infections than those who received at least some breast milk in their first six months of life. Under nutrition is the underlying cause of 43 per cent of children deaths.

Every year, that is around 3.1 million deaths of children under the age of five are due to under nutrition. African governments and civil society organisations have made huge gains in ensuring that girls go to school and complete their education.

An educated woman has higher chance to choose the number of children and give them the basic needs including early breast feeding. This, of course, has enormous benefits for both girls and societies at large.

In Tanzania, there are 7.6 million children under the age of 5 living in rural areas, where learning opportunities are limited and health services are scarce. Forty two percent of Tanzanian children under 5 are stunted in their emotional and physical growth as a result of malnutrition.

Sixty-three percent of young Tanzanian children don’t attend pre-school, and for those that do, the student-teacher ratio is 74 to 1, signaling the lack of attention they receive
Tanzania’s Vision 2025, an in-depth assessment of Tanzania’s history and direction, states the country’s desire to be a middle-income economy in just 13 years.

The hope is that the momentum building discussions held during the Forum will yield concrete actions by the Tanzanian Government to ensure the passing and implementation of childhood development policies that will dramatically bolster overall well-being services and resources for young children.