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“Children under 5, most vulnerable to malaria and malnutrition, report symptoms early!”

A Paediatric Nurse Specialist at the Tamale Central Hospital in the Northern Region, Ms Feruza Abdulai, has admonished parents and caregivers of children under five years to report symptoms of illnesses including malaria to health facilities early for prompt attention.

She said children under five record high morbidity and mortality cases, hence early detection of signs and symptoms of diseases for appropriate medical care, could help prevent deaths.

Ms Faruza speaking in an interview with Diamond News on the subject of malaria and malnutrition in children said all medical conditions could be managed in time at the health facility especially when reported in the early stages.

Malaria, a disease caused by parasites transmitted to people through the infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. Although it is life-threatening, it is preventable and treatable.

“Unfortunately some of the cases come with severe malaria and they also have other conditions attached such as cerebral malaria, anemia and malnutrition.”

According to the Paediatric Nurse, when the malaria parasite load is very high, some finds ways into the brain causing what is referred to as (Cerebral malaria).

“When this happens, the child becomes unconscious. It has other neurological signs coming along as a result of the parasite in the brain. It is a serious condition that can result in death. Even those who survive and are managed by us [health professionals] develop comorbidities such as speech difficulties, hearing impairment and some challenges during walking,” she cautioned

Anemia she explained is when the parasite sucks the blood and results in low hemoglobin.  Being malnourished can predispose children to malaria, vice versa.

According to the UN children’s fund UNICEF “Every two minutes, a child under 5 dies of malaria. And children in this bracket are the most vulnerable group to be affected by malaria.

In the WHO African Region, about 65% (274,000) of deaths that occurred in 2019 were in children less than 5 years old.

Sub-Saharan Africa contributed about 24 million fatal cases among children to the global figure. It is sad to note that a greater number of the deaths recorded are said to be preventable and treatable (UNICEF, 2021).

It has also been noted that most beneficiaries of mosquito nets do not use them as prescribed as some prefer to use them for other purposes such as fencing their gardens among others.

In a related development, Nutritionist and Public Health Specialist with the Ghana Health Service, Bono East Regional Directorate, Ms. Joana Yinpaab Duubon, also speaking to Diamond News in an interview, said the WHO has proven that about 45% of deaths among under five year old children are connected to under nutrition and mostly these are found in low and middle income countries.

 “There is a direct interaction between inadequate dietary intake and disease which result in undernutrition.[This means that,] a child who does not eat enough does not build a strong immune system to fight infection and disease thereby making the child prone to infections and diseases and vice versa which results in malnutrition.”

Ms. Duubon stated that when the child’s nutrition level is low the body cannot fight the malaria parasite and especially for children who are inadequately fed with breast milk or food and are malnourished, they are more susceptible to getting infected by malaria due to their lowered immunity.

 Story by: Nyadror Adanuti Nelson | www.diamondfmonline.com

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