Nepal

Overcoming COVID-19’s challenges to prioritize children’s health

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By Helen Keller Intl | OCTOBER 15, 2021

For families who live in places where nutritious foods — along with basic healthcare — are out of reach even in the best of times, the COVID-19 crisis brings especially severe challenges.

That’s why Helen Keller and our sister organizations are acting quickly to bring life-saving care to families that need it most.

Providing nutrition support to children in Nepal’s remote regions

Puskar was 18 months old when his mother, Mina, noticed he was growing sicker by the day. She could see how thin his arms and legs were getting. Yet no matter how large the meals she prepared for him, he did not improve. She saw his ribs start to poke through his chest, and over a few weeks, Puskar stopped playing and eating altogether.

Frightened by Puskar’s worsening health, a desperate Mina took him to the local health clinic near her home in the Bhajani rural municipality in the Kailali district. There, she was referred to the only facility in Nepal dedicated exclusively to emergency treatment of malnourished children. But within a few days, the center was forced to close due to COVID-19 lockdowns.

Pandemic puts a strain on services to combat chronic malnutrition

Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon story in Nepal, where 2 in 5 children suffer from chronic malnutrition or stunting (small size for their age). And this situation will only worsen as the pandemic undermines health services across the country.

In partnership with USAID, Helen Keller supports the government in treating children with acute malnutrition in 32 out of its 42 districts. During the COVID-19 pandemic, frontline workers and Nutrition and Health Officers conducted phone follow-ups with the mothers and caretakers of children with severe malnutrition to ensure they were receiving the proper treatment.

For Puskar, our workers wasted no time in following up with Mina and ensuring that a local outpatient facility could provide her son with special therapeutic foods. Mina was also counseled on a healthy diet for young children and taught how to grow nutrient-rich vegetables in her own home garden.

Delivering sustainable solutions during times of crisis in areas of greatest need

Supportive and sustainable measures like these, in vulnerable regions around the world, empower communities with the education and resources needed to raise their own nutritious foods.

As the pandemic continues to threaten food supplies and health services, support for Helen Keller’s work provides an indispensable safety net. Our science-based programs help families build their own resilience for the future — so they can cope when crises hit.