One out of three children suffers Kwashiokor in Gushegu
2010-01-28 20:01:05This article has been read 790 times.The future of the Gushegu District of the Northern Region is under serious threat, as the majority of its children between one and five years, are being hit by the high incidence of a form of malnourishment, popularly known in Ghana as “Kwashiokor”.
A four-day working visit to the district by the Northern Regional Bureau of The Chronicle, uncovered that one out of every three children under five is malnourished in the District, due to the inability of parents to provide the right quality of nutritious meals to their children, after six months of exclusive breastfeeding.
The paper discovered that children of about two to three years are still being breastfed by their mothers without any supplementary food, and the few that are not being breastfed, are given carbohydrate foods leading to abnormal growth.
According to our information, the Gushegu, Karaga, Tolon-Kumbungu and Savelugu-Nanton districts, in that order, have the highest cases of Kwashiokor, as a result of their superstitious and cultural beliefs.
The parents of some of the malnourished children told The Chronicle that they were made to believe that until they give birth to another, their first child must continue to enjoy the mother’s breastmilk.
Again, they were told not to feed children under the age of five with eggs or any food that contains meat, otherwise they would become thieves in their adulthood.
The majority of them also believe that malnourishment is a serious curse which cannot be revoked, and thus do not see the need to report such cases to the health centres. One Madam Fulera Yakubu, a farmer at Nawugu in the Gushegu District, and mother of one of the malnourished children, Hardi Yakubu, said she lost her first child to the same sickness in 2006.
Even though she had made efforts to send Hardi to the hospital to avoid a re-occurrence, most people in the village, including her husband, had threatened to deal with her if anything should happen to the child at the hospital.
Unfortunately, the husband, Yakubu Imoro, also a farmer, was not around to answer some questions from this reporter.
However, The Chronicle made a surprise visit to one nutrition centre in Gushegu called Neesim Nutrition Centre, where serious efforts are being made by Reverend Rahaman Yakubu, and his wife Nelleka Yakubu from Holland, to provide free treatment for the large number of children suffering from “Kwashiokor”.
The centre is currently taking care of about twenty-two malnourished children, in partnership with Project Share, a non-governmental organisation (NGO).
The Centre was established in September 2009, and has already rehabilitated over 40 children who were close to early deaths.
Some of these children, the paper gathered, are mostly transferred from the Gushegu Government Hospital.
However, some of them who were brought in, about a week before the paper’s visit, were in critical condition, while others were fast recovering.
Malnourished children usually loose appetite, suffer diarrhoea, have skin burns due to lack of oil in their skin, have emaciated bodies and very weak legs, and could as well die at any time if immediate attention is not given to nourishing them.
Most of the nursing mothers frequently expose the children to environmental hazards, leading to diarrhoea, cholera and malaria infections which mostly kill them.
The Proprietor of the Neesim Nutrition Centre, Mrs. Rev Nelleka Yakubu, disclosed that even though the centre was offering free treatment to the affected children, parents were still not willing to hand over their children.
She said it took the management of the centre a hell of time to persuade the communities to seek treatment for the children, due to their cultural and superstitious beliefs on the sickness.
She confirmed that one out of every three child under five years in the district was malnourished. Mrs. Yakubu said the situation was not only worrying, but also a threat to the future of the district.
The Director of Project Share, Reverend Rahama Yakubu, said the disease had been rampant in Gushegu because of superstitious belief, and called for serious education on the disease. According to him, instead of seeking expert or nutritionist advice, most of the parents rather resort to herbal means.
Rev. Yakubu however appealed to other local and international NGOs to support the Neesim Nutrition Centre in diverse ways, to sustain its good work.
The District Chief Executive (DCE) for Gushegu, Alhassan Fuseini, who led this paper to the Neesim Nutrition Centre, sympathised with the children who were undergoing such pains through no fault of theirs.
He admitted that the district had a lot of malnourished children, and pledged the assembly’s support to the management of the Centre to sustain their free treatment.
The DCE promised to assist them acquire a piece of land to put up their own special clinic to address the problem.
Meanwhile, The Chronicle checks at the Northern Regional Health Directorate also confirmed the high incidence of Kwashiokor in the region.
The Regional Health Promoter, Alhaji A.B. Yakubu, in an interview with this reporter, confirmed the statistics, and also attributed the disease to bad cultural practices and superstitions.
He said although the Directorate had embarked on a series of educational campaigns, including the ongoing Proactive Nutrition Education, the people seemed to maintaining their stand.
He was optimistic however, that with time, things would change for the better, to enhance the human resource development of the area.