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Plumpy Nuts Shortage Threatens Malnourished Children in Ghana

Nutritionists at Tema General Hospital appeal for government and donor support to treat severe acute malnutrition

by Victor Adetimilehin

Children with severe acute malnutrition (SAM) in Ghana are facing a dire situation as the supply of plumpy nuts, a ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF), is running low.

Plumpy nuts, also known as RUTF, is a fortified peanut butter-like paste that contains essential macronutrients from the four-star diet groups. It is widely used to treat SAM, a condition that causes wasting, stunting, and increased risk of death among children under five years old.

According to Ms Joyce Asare Kissi, the head of the nutrition unit at Tema General Hospital, plumpy nuts used to be provided by the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), but the agency stopped its support a few years ago.

Since then, the hospital has been relying on a local company in Kumasi, called Project Peanut Butter, for an alternative RUTF. However, the company has also halted production, leaving the hospital with no option but to prepare its own RUTF.

Ms Kissi said that preparing RUTF locally is expensive and time-consuming, and the hospital does not have enough resources to meet the demand. She said that the hospital treats an average of two SAM cases per week, and the children need to be fed and monitored regularly.

She said that the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) does not cover the treatment, and the RUTF is too expensive for most of the parents of children with SAM. As a result, many of them stop the treatment after discharge, leading to relapse and sometimes death.

Ms Kissi appealed to the government and the NHIS to include SAM treatment in the scheme and to provide more funding and support for the nutrition unit. She also urged UNICEF and other donors to resume their assistance and supply of plumpy nuts.

Ms Kissi said that SAM is still a prevalent and serious problem in Ghana, and it affects the growth and development of the children. She said that plumpy nuts are a life-saving food that can help children recover and thrive.

She also appealed to organizations and individuals to donate baby diapers, grains, and children’s clothing to the nutrition unit, as many of the mothers on admission are poor and in need of help.

Plumpy nuts is a product of Nutriset, a French company that developed it in 1996. It has been endorsed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and other international agencies as an effective and convenient way to treat SAM.

According to the WHO, SAM affects about 16 million children worldwide, and it is responsible for about one million deaths every year. The majority of the cases are in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

The WHO recommends that children with SAM should receive RUTF as part of a community-based management of acute malnutrition (CMAM) program. This involves screening, diagnosis, referral, and treatment of the children at home or at health facilities.

The WHO also advises that children with SAM should receive medical care for any underlying conditions, such as infections, dehydration, or anemia. They should also receive micronutrient supplements, deworming, and immunization.

The WHO says that with proper treatment, most children with SAM can recover within six to eight weeks. However, without treatment, SAM can lead to irreversible damage to the brain and body, or even death.

The plumpy nuts shortage in Ghana is a challenge that needs urgent attention and action. It is a matter of life and death for the children with SAM, who deserve a chance to survive and grow. It is also a matter of national development, as the future of Ghana depends on the health and well-being of its children.

Source: Modern Ghana 

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