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Treating the children of Jhabua, India

August 05, 2010 - India

By Sharon Levy

This May I had the privilege of volunteering as a Registered Nurse for the Real Medicine Foundation’s Malnutrition Eradication program in Jhabua, India. Jhabua is located in Madhya Pradesh, one of the poorest states in the sub-continent.  60 per cent of children under the age of 5 are malnourished in Madhya Pradesh.  RMF’s program targets this age group to be assessed for severity of malnutrition, need for inpatient treatment, and family education to decrease the incidence of malnutrition.

Working with Michael Matheke-Fisher, RMF’s Regional Programs Coordinator in South Asia, Caitlin McQuiling, Director of Programs for RMF in India, and Community Nutrition Educators, (local women hired and trained by RMF) I went on several follow up home visits to see children who had been recently treated at one of RMF’s Nutrition Rehab Clinics (NRC) The NRC provides 14-21 days of medically monitored feedings of micronutrient rich food for children with severe acute malnutrition. In addition to weight gain, other ailments such as respiratory illnesses, infections, and diarrhea are treated as well. A pediatrician and a specially trained group of nurses follow each patient.   While there the family member who stays with the child, usually the mother, is given education about helpful ways to add protein and calories to the child’s food as well as clean food handling practices.

As May is the hot, hot, dry season in central India, the villages/farms we went to were barren. It was easy to see the great challenge faced by these families to feed their children when nothing of substance could possibly grow in that heat.  In fact, a few of the children we attempted to visit were not there as their families had migrated to other areas of the country for their father to find work.

One of the children we did see for follow up had been ill with vomiting and diarrhea. He was dangerously underweight.  The Community Nutrition Educator informed the mother of the importance of getting him to the doctor. With no transportation and limited resources, RMF was able to provide the family with what was necessary for the child to be seen and evaluated by a doctor.

A few weeks after my departure from Jhabua, RMF opened a new NRC in partnership with Jeevan Jhyoti Hospital.  This unit has successfully treated over 20 children to date and 123 have been treated at other NRC’s in the last 6 months thanks to the tireless efforts of Michael, Caitlin, and their staff.  I hope to return to Jhabua in the future to assist with the program. Until I am able to go back I am committed to spreading the word and raising funds for the magical work that RMF does in India

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