By Michael Gwarisa recently in Lower Gweru
THE Midlands province has successfully integrated nutrition and paediatric Anti Retro Viral Therapy (ART) programs in a bid to reduce infant mortality as a result of HIV induced malnutrition, a health official has said.
Briefing Journalists on the side-lines of a Save the children Nutrition Media Sensitisation Tour of Lower Gweru, Midlands Province District Medical Officer, Dr Shakespeare Mureyano said there was poor uptake of Pediatric ART in the area and as a result, opportunistic infections like diarrhea would attack children who are born HIV positive leading to wasting and malnutrition in children under the age of five.
“In terms of the work that has been implemented so far, we have noticed some changes in terms of our cure rate which has been hovering around 80% because we are identifying cases early and by doing so they are put into care and the issue to do with HIV testing that became an entry point to say when we are dealing with nutrition services.
“The component to do with HIV testing services is brought in and these cases are identified and when they are identified, we then do index case testing to say established that this infant is exposed, what about other siblings so it actually helps in expanding our work in getting to initiate children since we have had a problem of low uptake in terms of Paediatric ART uptake. However, since we implemented this integration program, we have noticed that there has been an increase in the uptake of paediatric ART,” said Dr Mureyano.
He added that with the advent of Ward Nutrition Coordinators, they managed to penetrate communities to ensure that effective training is done at a Ward and Village level in collaboration with traditional leaders and various stakeholders.
“So it actually improved our service delivery since we were on the ground offering our services and improving our referral systems say those children with acute malnutrition are referred to hospitals where there is maximum care.
“Underlying causes of the ailments are established say is it inadequate intake or is it underlying diseases or any opportunistic infection like child Tuberculosis, diarrhoea in that regard.”
Funding partners like Save Children and UNICEF have been working in partnership with the ministry of health to ensure the nutrition projects succeed in terms of access and other diagnostics services offered to children.
Meanwhile, Louis Mache Nutrition Coordination for Lower Gweru district however said they have recorded a low prevalence in terms of malnutrition since they commenced the nutrition project in the area and they have successfully improved the ART uptake initiative so as to avoid malnutrition in children.