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Tropical Storm Ana: 565 children lose weight

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Adrian Chikumbe

United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (Unicef) Malawi has identified 565 children under the age of five as showing “signs of wasting”.

Wasting is a general state of ill health marked by weight loss and muscle loss.

The United Nations agency indicates, in a report, that some of the affected children are receiving ready-to-use therapeutic food for the treatment of severe acute malnutrition.

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It further indicates that others were admitted to “treatment programmes” in flood evacuation centres.

Floods displaced thousands of people, mostly in the Shire Valley districts of Nsanje and Chikwawa.

Unicef Malawi says it is reprogramming thematic funds through which it has supported nutrition screening of 17,609 children in evacuation centres through which 565 of them were found with signs of wasting.

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“Additional funding is needed urgently to enable Unicef [to] scale up screening efforts and other nutrition interventions including promotion of infant young child feeding practices in IDP [internally displaced people] sites and affected communities,” the report reads.

It says, as one way of addressing problems associated with floods, it is supporting the dissemination of life-saving nutrition information to people affected by Tropical Storm Ana to promote good nutrition practices for adolescents, pregnant and lactating women, and children under five years of age.

Health Ministry spokesperson Adrian Chikumbe said the ministry was aware of the situation and had been collaborating with stakeholders.

He said there were a number of initiatives introduced to counter the same, including distribution of ready-to-use therapeutic food and dissemination of messages on appropriate nutrition

“We are aware of this. It is a problem that has been there for some time but has been made worse due to the floods,” Chikumbe said.

Since Tropical Storm Ana hit southern Malawi on January 24 this year, the country has continued to be affected by heavy rains and additional tropical storms that have caused floods in the Southern Region and Salima District in the Central Region.

According to Unicef Malawi, natural disasters displaced about 900,000 families, including children.

The organisation says the multiple burdens of floods, the Covid pandemic, polio outbreak and cholera had exacerbated the situation.

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