Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Treating More than Earthquake Injuries in Haiti

Provided at Hôpital Albert Schweitzer (HAS) are many different services to address the needs of the people of Deschapelles and its surrounding communities. All the services provided are of importance but I find that I most appreciate the clinic for the malnourished children and adults in and around the community. The majority of the individuals that arrive at the clinic are not only very poor, but they are often from the high hills where adequate agricultural support is sparse. This therefore, makes it very difficult to grow food that is high in protein, vitamins, and other very important nutrients.

As a consequence of poor nutrition, many children and adults suffer from malnutrition, and depending on its severity, exhibit not only physical but intellectual and emotional symptoms. Typically growth is stunted, and they are often intellectually delayed. Many times when the children are brought to the malnutrition clinic at HAS, moderate to severe malnutrition already exists and the children are already exhibiting signs and symptoms as a result. Symptoms such as change in hair color, difficulties seeing at night and or night blindness, decrease in body weight and the disproportionate size of the upper arms in relation to their age. The classic distended abdomen, small skinny legs and arms, sunken cheeks and bulging eyes, are observed, in its severest form.

Treating severe malnutrition can be very challenging; therefore all efforts must be made to prevent the advancement to this level. To try and prevent the severe form of the disease and alleviate some of the problems that comes along with it, fortified milk, peanut butter, different kinds of beans and peas are usually added to their diets here at the hospital to provide extra source of calcium, protein, and vitamin A. Included in their daily dietary intake are supplemental doses of vitamin A and vitamin C and other important vitamins.

Psychosocial needs are also addressed within this population. To encourage healthy psychosocial development, external stimulation such as singing songs, playing games, and massages, are also implemented in their daily routine, at the hospital. As parents and or guardians are admitted along with the children they are encouraged to participate in these activities. During inpatient period the parents are taught and trained in how to buy and prepare nutritious foods, on a very low budget. The hope is to have this practice continue at home. After discharge from the inpatient program, patients and their families are followed at the outpatient clinic where evaluation and treatment continues, so as to prevent a relapse.

Thanks for reading-Project HOPE volunteer Joy Williams

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