© UNICEF/UNI199212/Shrestha – Akriti Banskota, 4, runs happily with her new found energy in Chapagaun village of Lalitpur, one of the 14 most earthquake affected districts in Nepal.
By Naresh Newar
Lalitpur, Nepal/HONG KONG, 29 October 2015 – It is an absolute joy for Samjhana Lamichhane to see her four-year-old niece Akriti Banskota run.
Akriti, who was born with low birth weight, had been sick her entire life. She lives with her aunt’s family in Chapagaun village of Lalitpur, one of the 14 most earthquake affected districts in Nepal and which lies in the southern belt of the Kathmandu Valley. Akriti’s parents have migrated abroad for work.
“I tried everything to help her,” Samjhana said. “I was very worried that one day I would have to hand over a lifeless child to her parents.”
Akriti’s health worsened over the years despite getting medical aid from private hospitals and clinics. None of the medical professionals were able to diagnose that her health problems were being compounded by severe acute malnutrition (SAM).
Samjhana’s worries were finally appeased when a UNICEF-supported emergency nutrition program was started in her community. Akriti was identified as being severely malnourished by Kriti KC, a young health professional working with UNICEF partner Social Development Promotion Centre (SDPC).
Akriti looked very pale with a sunken face and an emaciated body. She could barely walk and didn’t even have the energy to talk. Her mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) hovered in the red region. Her weight was below 10 kilograms.
“I was quite shocked to see that there was a malnourished child right here in Kathmandu Valley and it still makes me wonder what would have happened to Akriti if we hadn’t reached her on time,” said KC.
Akriti was immediately provided with Ready to Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF), a peanut-based paste mixed with dried skimmed milk, vitamins and minerals, which can be consumed directly by the child and which provides sufficient intake of nutrients for complete recovery. In a week, Akriti had gained 10 per cent of her body weight.
Akriti quickly recovered from her severe acute malnutrition (SAM) condition. Now she is not just able to talk and walk, but also run with full energy. She still has another year until her health improves completely and will be able to go to school.
“I had absolutely no knowledge about nutrition but now I know a lot thanks to UNICEF,” Samjhana said. “Let’s hope more malnourished children can be saved like Akriti.”
Since 28 June, when SDPC started emergency nutrition programme in Kathmandu with UNICEF’s support, over 500 children have been identified as suffering from malnutrition, uncovering a shocking fact about how malnutrition is not only prevalent in rural areas, but also in urban areas.