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Empowering moms to detect acute malnutrition early

Empowering MomsWORLD Vision Development Foundation (WVDF) takes pride in being tapped as one of the primary implementing partners of the Korea International Cooperation Agency Philippines (KOICA) and UNICEF Philippines for the implementation of the project entitled, “The Integrated Nutrition and Health Actions in the First 1,000 Days of Life (F1KD) Project”.

Under this project and in consultation with the Department of Health (DOH), World Vision conducted Training of Trainers (TOT) on “Family MUAC: Teaching the Community to Screen for Malnutrition” in the provinces of Samar, Northern Samar and Zamboanga del Norte.

Family Mid-upper-arm circumference (MUAC) screening or Mother-MUAC screening also known as Family MUAC is a community screening approach which can early-detect wasting in children aged 6 – 59 months old. This approach empowers mothers/caregivers to screen wasting on their children by teaching them how to properly obtain MUAC measurements and assess the presence of edema. One of the major objectives of this training is to discuss how Family MUAC Approach can be used as a method to help improve early identification of Acute Malnutrition and Philippine Integrated Management of Acute Malnutrition (PIMAM) coverage.

The first ever household level training of Family MUAC approach in the Philippines for mothers and caregivers was initiated by the local government of Pagsanghan in Samar after their barangay-level health and nutrition workers have successfully completed their TOT session. In the pilot training conducted by the local nutrition office of Pagsanghan, Samar, a total of 82 mothers and caregivers in eight barangays were trained on how to use mid-upper-arm circumference (MUAC) to screen and detect acute malnutrition in their children at home. This roll-out training was spearheaded by the Pagsanghan Municipal Nutrition Action Officer (MNAO) Mr. Jovelle Royandoyan and their barangay health workers (BHWs) and Barangay Nutrition Scholars (BNSs).

According to The Lancet article authored by Fore et al. (2020), the ongoing pandemic is worsening the child malnutrition situation all over the world, particularly for the low-income and middle-income countries. This can be attributed to the deteriorating quality of the children’s diets, interruption in nutrition and other essential services, as well as disruptions in humanitarian response and social protection systems. Before the pandemic, the estimated global prevalence of wasting for children under 5 years is 47 million. This figure would translate to an estimated 6 to 7 million children with wasting during the first 12 months of the pandemic.

In the Philippines, the country is also experiencing disruptions of basic health services and humanitarian response due to COVID-19 pandemic. This includes services for the prevention and treatment of wasting, especially in the geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas (GIDA) or hard-to-reach vulnerable communities. Given this context, there is a strong call to action now to strengthen the existing programs on the management of acute malnutrition. To mitigate this, we would need to think of innovative solutions to prevent the increase of prevalence of wasting in our country during the pandemic. One strategy to address this is to screen wasting at the onset; and to do this, we would need the whole community to collaborate in monitoring their own children. The Family MUAC approach is one simple way to capture this at the grassroot levels.

Within three months since the pilot roll-out of the Training of Trainers a total of 1,446 local health and nutrition workers and 1,184 mothers/caregivers have been trained to screen their children aged 6 to 59 months.

In this era of COVID-19, World Vision Philippines, together with the partners, hopes to increase the efficiency in finding acute malnutrition cases in the communities supported by the First 1,000 Days Project despite the disruptions in the delivery of health and nutrition services at the local level due to the pandemic. With the series of ongoing capacity-building activities, the organization aims to improve the knowledge, skills and confidence not only of the community health and nutrition workers but also the mothers and caregivers of young children who are in the best place to early detect the signs of acute malnutrition.

About World Vision

World Vision is a Christian relief, development, and advocacy organization dedicated to working with children, their families, and communities to overcome poverty and injustice. Inspired by its Christian faith and values, it is dedicated to working with the world’s most vulnerable people. It serves and collaborates with all people regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, or gender.