Nutrition Rehabilitation Centre at GRH needs dedicated space

As it is used as fever ward, malnourished children are treated in different wards

The Nutrition Rehabilitation Centre (NRC), a government-approved facility to address malnutrition among children, has been functioning at Government Rajaji Hospital for the last six months. For it to function effectively, it needs dedicated space as the ward is being used for treating children with fever cases for the past one month.

What is NRC?

Set up under National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), this facility has seven beds, where severely acute malnourished (SAM) children along with their mothers are admitted for treatment and rehabilitation. Such a facility has been set up in Tiruvannamalai and Perambalur too, as these districts have been identified as places with high prevalence of malnourished children.

A nutritionist, cook and a worker are present round-the-clock and the children are provided food and supplements for two to three weeks.

The mothers are educated on how to prevent deficiencies in their children in later stages. Once the children are discharged, a follow-up is done to check the weight gain of the children.

S. Balasankar, Head of the Department of Paediatrics, GRH, says that about 10 SAM children, most of them aged one to five, are given treatment here every day.

A hospital official said the malnourished children are currently being treated as inpatients at different wards as the NRC is being used as a fever ward. The official adds that more space would help to scale up its operations.

Its prevalence

National Family Health Survey- IV (2015- 2016) shows a considerable percent of children under five years in Madurai district are either stunted or wasted or underweight.

Malnourishment is a vicious cycle, explains Dr. Balasankar. “A malnourished child has low immunity level and is prone to infectious diseases such as diarrhoea, due to which they lose weight and again fall in the trap of malnutrition,” he says. Under-nutrition can also affect the cognitive development of these children, he adds.

S. Ramya, the nutritionist at the facility, says most of these children are children from poor families. “When we counsel the mothers, they say they cannot afford to buy vegetables and fruits for their children. We tell them to prioritise their expenditure to buy food with high nutritional value. We also encourage parents to give them supplements given at anganwadis and schools,” she says.

According to a Child Development Project Officer, addressing alcohol addiction in economically weaker families may control malnourishment, as the issue has led to less money available for the mothers to buy nutritious food.“Poor sanitation and open defecation also pose serious challenges causing malnutrition as they expose young children to worms,” says a Public Health official.

Multi-dimensional approach

M. Senthil Kumar, Deputy Director of Health, Department of Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), says an ICT (Information and communication technology)- based real-time monitoring system and the Integrated Child Development Services- Common Application Software, under the Poshan Abhiyan, is introduced.

"This facility will ensure that underweight children are precisely identified and are continuously monitored,” he said.

The NRC, hence, needs more space for tackling the malnutrition malaise.

GRH Dean J. Sangumani says the issue of space constraints will be looked into and addressed.

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