Hospitals serving expired baby formula

UMZINGWANE - Some hospitals operating in hunger-stricken areas are administering expired feeding formulas to children suffering from acute malnutrition.

Officials at Umzingwane District Hospital said the F100 and F75 feeding formulas that were given to children with acute malnutrition and other complications were expired.

The officials said they were still waiting for the next batch to be disbursed to them.

“We get these treatments quarterly, so we have not yet been given for the next quarter, it’s a dilemma to us but it’s what we have for those who have acute malnutrition and complications such as oedema,” Umzingwane nutrition assistant Samuel Mudzingwa said.

This comes as the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) projected that at least 32 000 children in Zimbabwe will have acute malnutrition in 2016 as a result of an El-Nino-induced drought.

“We give out the F75 first and this will also drain the water for those with oedema and then the children are given F100 to rebuild wasted tissues,” Mudzingwa said.

“They are then given the plumpy-nut Ready to Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) and this plumpy-nut is for those with moderate malnutrition and is also given. The powders are mixed with water to make a milk solution.

  “But for those with moderate they get the Ready-to-use Therapeutic Food (RUTF).”

An estimated 20 000 boxes of RUTF will be needed to treat the 32 000 children projected to have severe acute malnutrition in 2016 at a cost of $1,2 million, according to Unicef.

So far Unicef has procured 11 000 boxes of RUTF and 1 000 boxes of Ready to use Supplementary Food (RUSF) for treating children with moderate malnutrition.

“We have an erratic supply of the Plumpy-Nut so it sometimes disturbs the treatment of malnutrition. And now some mothers use it to feed other children who are healthy,” Umzingwane food services supervisor Edward Funga said.

“Depending on the severity of the malnutrition, the kid has to take three or four sachets a day.

“But the other problem is that if administered without proper feeding of the kid, it will not be effective. Those are the issues we are dealing with.”

President Robert Mugabe has declared the drought crisis a “national emergency”.

His government claims it will start in May, a feeding scheme in schools in order to mitigate hunger.

“The success of malnutrition intervention will depend on vulnerable children being screened and identified early and referred for treatment. This requires pro-actively screening the children in their homes,” Unicef said in a media brief.

Only three out of 10 districts here are severely affected by hunger.

The Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVac) puts the figure of Zimbabweans needing urgent assistance at 2,8 million, which is 30 percent of the rural population.

Of these, about 500 000 are children.

While the El-Nino has impacted the whole country, Matabeleland South, North, Midlands and Masvingo are the most affected.

According to Unicef, an overall of 2,1 percent of children under-five years have severe acute malnutrition, this is slightly higher than the international threshold of 2 percent required for an emergency response.

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