When children suffer from hunger and poor nutrition, the consequences can be more than stunted growth. Child malnutrition affects brain development and can have important long-term effects such as lower educational achievement and reduced economic productivity in adulthood. So what happens to the children who receive treatment in therapeutic feeding programs such as the Global Health Partnerships (GHP) project in Kenya? Are they all destined to have permanent brain damage with reduced mental and physical function? Or can these young children develop more normally after malnutrition has been detected and they receive appropriate treatment? The answers to these important questions are not clear, because very few studies have been done that followed and assessed the development of these children after treatment.
In an ongoing effort to evaluate the effectiveness of our projects, GHP conducted a study of the developmental outcome of children who have been enrolled in our GlobalGiving “Feed Hungry Children in Kenya” project. GHP received assistance and funding for this study from the University of New Mexico (UNM) School of Medicine. The evaluators used the Malawi Developmental Assessment Tool (MDAT) to assess child development. The MDAT is more culturally appropriate for rural African children than the methods used in the USA and other Western developed countries. The community health workers located 100 of the children who had been treated for malnutrition in the GHP therapeutic feeding project. All of these children recovered (“graduated” from the program) at least one year before their development was assessed. A group of children who had never suffered from malnutrition was also assessed as a “control” or comparison group. The data are still being analyzed by the research team, but the results appear to be very encouraging. The impression of the health are professionals who conducted the assessments is that the children who were treated for malnutrition are doing very well in regard to their mental and physical development. A complete summary of all of the results of this study will be presented in a future GlobalGiving report.
The GHP outreach clinics have continued to provide the vital services for young children in remote villages who are at risk of malnutrition. In the three months (November 2015 through January 2016) since the last report, 304 children were seen in the GHP outreach clinics, and 3 of them were treated for malnutrition. All of the children were weighed and measured to assess their growth and immunizations were given. A total of 22 malnourished children are currently enrolled in the therapeutic feeding program and all of them are recovering.
In addition to the outreach clinics, 24 families are enrolled in the GHP program of feeding the poorest and receive a monthly food ration.
Stay tuned for the final results of the important study on long-term follow-up of the children who have been treated for malnutrition. GHP will continue to seek evidence-based solutions for the problem of child hunger and malnutrition in Kenya. Your comments and suggestions are appreciated. What do you find most interesting in the reports? Are there aspects of the program for which you would like more detailed information?
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