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Last Updated: Saturday, 28 February, 2004, 00:53 GMT
'Food clinic' helps Nepal's children
By James Baker
Aid worker

Shek Rajulan on admission (left) and discharge from the home
Children look much healthier after spending time at the home
A unique school in Nepal is teaching children and their mothers how to eat more healthily.

Almost half of Nepalese children under five are malnourished.

In a bid to tackle the problem, Unicef is working with the government to improve children's health through immunisation programmes and Vitamin A supplements.

But crucial work is being carried out by groups such as the Nepalese Youth Opportunity Foundation (NYOF), set up by Dr Ana Duwadi.

Patients in the clinic
The reason for the children's malnourishment is nearly always poverty
Dr Ana Duwadi
One of its projects is the Nutritional Rehabilitation Home in Kathmandu.

The home treats severely malnourished children whilst teaching their mothers about child care and nutrition.

Between 700 and 800 children and their mothers have received free care at the home since it opened in 1998.

But Dr Duwadi says the task they face is enormous.

"We are taking a drop of water from an ocean."

Poor health

Children are sent to the home by local doctors and hospitals.

Many of the children and mothers that arrive are suffering from diseases such as tuberculosis as well as malnourishment.

Dr Duwadi said: "Children are often discharged from hospitals or health clinics after their recovery from an active disease even though they are malnourished.

"As a result, they return home before they are fully recovered and their illness may recur, or they are subject to new diseases, sometimes resulting in death."

Dr Ana Duwadi
Many come to us unable to smile or play or react to anything - lacking any of the spark that defines a child
Dr Duwadi
Every child and mother that comes to the home is weighed and measured.

Most stay for around four to six weeks.

While they are there, they receive a normal education, a change of clothes and medication as well as a monitored diet.

On average, mothers - some of whom are as young as 14 or 15 - gain four to five kilograms whilst at the home.

Both mother and child are then followed up with home visits.

He added: "The mothers come because they know we are able to treat them straight away and at no cost to them.

"The reason for the children's malnourishment is nearly always poverty, here though the mothers can learn how to make the best of the meagre budgets that they have."

'We help change lives'

Four-year-old Niru Lama, her one-year-old sister Asmit and their mother all had TB when they were admitted to the hospital.

The family, from Nuwakot in Nepal, were also suffering from malnutrition.

Asmit Lama with her mother
Baby Asmit Lama after recovering from malnutrition and TB
They were sent to the clinic after being sent home from hospital despite both being dangerously under weight.

Three weeks after admission, Niru had put on one kilogram in weight and was animated and happy.

Dr Duwadi says many children who are admitted are depressed and show physiological problems as a result of their conditions.

"Many come to us unable to smile or play or react to anything - lacking any of the spark that defines a child.

"It is not long before the children are more alert and active, and after a few weeks, they are running about and playing."

The team who run the home want to build on their success and open more clinics in Nepal so they can educate as many mothers as possible.

Dr Duwadi said: "By educating them we can help change lives, what we are doing here is right and is working. Our only constraint now is our budget."


SEE ALSO:
Country profile: Nepal
03 Dec 03  |  Country profiles
Education in the shadow of Everest
06 May 03  |  Education
Nepal's unique eye care centre
28 Oct 03  |  South Asia


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