icddr,b helps fight child malnutrition

According to the World Health Organization, there are about 500,000 children suffering from Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) in Bangladesh; yet resources and trained community physicians and public health personnel are few and far between. 

As part of public initiatives to boost support for malnourished children and their mothers, the Institute of Public Health Nutrition - under the aegis of the Government of Bangladesh and supported by icddr,b’s Centre for Nutrition and Food Security and Dhaka Hospital – recently organised two five-day training of trainers (TOT) courses on Severe Acute Malnutrition in Bangladesh.

The first session was held from 16 to 20 October, while the second session ran from 23 to 27 October. The course objective was to train participants how to plan strategically using SAM techniques in hospitals and clinics to treat children suffering from the condition.

A dire problem spread across the region

SAM is a life-threatening condition requiring urgent treatment and is caused by a protein, vitamin, and mineral deficiency leading to loss of body fat and muscle. Children suffering from SAM often die because health personnel unknowingly use practices that are suitable for well-nourished children but are highly dangerous for children with SAM.

SAM is not only a Bangladeshi problem – it is also a regional one. icddr,b has conducted substantial research on the subject and has staff with expertise and training in the field. In recent months, Dr Tahmeed Ahmed, Director of icddr,b’s Centre for Nutrition and Food Security has assisted the Government of Bangladesh in developing national guidelines for the management of SAM and recently helped revised the national guidelines for Afghanistan. Dr. Ahmed has also been involved in developing regional guidelines on SAM management for other Southeast Asian countries including Maldives, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Timor Leste and Thailand. The latest series of TOTs carried out by icddr, b and partners is in line with icddr,b’s commitment to combat public health problems in Bangladesh and the region.

Proper training leads the way

icddr,b’s Centre for Nutrition and Food Security and Dhaka Hospital have supported these two TOT courses, each consisted of 20 paediatricians (mostly assistant professors) of different Bangladeshi medical colleges.

Dr Md Iqbal Hossain, scientist and clinical lead of the Dhaka Hospital Nutrition Unit directed and facilitated the courses. Dr. Ahmed, who is also President of the Commonwealth Association for Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, gave the keynote speech at the opening of the courses. Dr Md Munirul Islam, associate scientist with the Centre for Nutrition and Food Security, also took part in the training courses as a co-facilitator. As part of the programme, the participants visited the Dhaka Hospital Nutrition Unit to receive hands-on training.

The TOTs covered all the sections and relevant portions of other documents, including WHO interim guidelines on how to treat patients with SAM, as well as clinical instructions. The training programme helped develop the skills and capacity of the national trainers, who are now better equipped to train health professionals throughout
Bangladesh.

Training and beyond

At the same time, the TOTs served as platforms for participants to discuss research ideas on how to best to battle child malnutrition. “Those of us who work on child malnutrition do not have ample enough opportunities to get together and discuss our research findings, so the training course/workshop was especially important for getting our heads together and comparing notes. A little bit of extra knowledge can save extra lives when it comes to child malnutrition.” explained Dr. Ahmed.

Looking to the future

icddr,b has also assisted the Governemnt of Bangladesh to develop of the ‘National Guidelines for the Management of Severely Malnourished Children in Bangladesh’, and the ‘Training Modules on Management of Children with Severe Acute Malnutrition in Bangladesh’. These national guidelines are expected to contribute substantially to combating childhood malnutrition in the country.

icddr,b’s Centre for Nutrition and Food Security is also developing a ready-to-use-therapeutic food  (necessary for the management of SAM) made of locally available food ingredients. The currently available formulation is expensive and has to be imported so is therefore unsustainable. A locally made therapeutic food is vital for mass consumption/treatment in Bangladesh and other regional countries.

For more information, contact Faruq Hasan in icddr,b’s Communication Unit

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