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In the state of Minas Gerais, 18 children are hospitalized for malnutrition every month

In the state of Minas Gerais, 18 children are hospitalized for malnutrition every month

Every month, 18 children up to one year old were hospitalized for malnutrition in Minas Gerais. There were 169 cases from January to September 2022. Since 2010, in the state, 3,119 children in this age group have ended up in hospital due to inadequate intake of nutrients essential for human health. Only in Belo Horizonte, as of August, had 73 children, which is a 356% increase compared to the 2010 numbers, when there were 16 records. Across Brazil, this type of hospitalization reached, last year, the highest level in 13 years, according to data released in October by the Childhood Health Observatory (Observa Infância), by the Petropolis Medical School of Arthur Sá Earp Neto (Unifase). ) and the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz). There were 2,979 hospitalizations in the country in 2021, an increase of 7% compared to 2020.

The increasingly alarming numbers are a picture of a “chain reaction,” according to experts. At the same time, specialists claim, there is the dismantling of social programs and policies, the economic crisis exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, wage losses, rising inflation, and parents’ lack of knowledge on how to care for and feed children well. And ask for help in a timely manner. And speaking of those responsible for the little ones, mothers are generally the first victims of this situation.

These babies may be born to mothers who already suffer from some degree of malnutrition. However, there is not enough growth during pregnancy, so that, in fact, there is growth and development of the fetus in such a way that this baby is born well-fed. It is a process that, as I say, begins in the womb, in the mother’s womb “, highlights Melissa Araujo, nutritionist and researcher at the Group of Studies, Research and Practice in Food and Health Environment (GEPPAAS) at the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG).

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In addition, Maternal and Child Nutrition Specialist and Professor at Estácio BH, Mariana Lana, adds that the lack of information on many mothers, combined, in general, with the low rate of studies, may also be related to the deterioration of this situation.

We have experienced an economic crisis, a loss of family income, and a pandemic. There is also a decrease in the literacy of mothers, who often believe, for example, that their milk is weak and therefore they do not have to breastfeed,” she says, noting that revelations about the importance of breastfeeding are no longer as intense as they used to be. From before.

According to Mariana, this lack of structure in homes leads to a situation where “one thing leads to another.” Babies who do not receive adequate health treatments have lower immunity, which contributes to illness and thus an unwillingness to breastfeed. At the same time, a lack of proper nutrition harms health, creating a sad cycle. “It’s a combination of complex factors, involving questions of a biological, economic and social nature,” he says.

Consequences for life

Although the number of hospitalizations due to malnutrition is focused, in this case, on a specific age group, the consequences of malnutrition go beyond childhood, according to specialists. In the medium term, especially in children, malnutrition leads to growth retardation, in addition to consequences related to children’s learning, with delays in developmental stages, says Fiocruz Public Health Researcher and Child Health Observatory coordinator Cristiano Boccolini.

“In the long run, it can have serious consequences for adulthood because the lack of food, calories and protein in this age group greatly increases the chances of developing chronic diseases in adulthood, especially high blood pressure, diabetes and kidney failure,” he says.

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However, the most obvious signs of malnutrition, says Estácio BH mother and child nutritionist and educator Mariana Lana, are already beginning to appear in children, including with regard to the behavior of young children. “A malnourished child is usually apathetic, does not interact, does not play, and stops gaining weight. Her face is not healthy, but tired,” she says.

Reversing the situation requires a deep look at hunger

Although experts point to several causes for the current state of child malnutrition – all of which are quite complex – there is no way to reverse this scenario, they point out. However, a robust set of procedures is required, all properly coherent and well structured.

“This process can actually be reversed, as long as you have a complex vision, a deep vision to fight hunger. For this, strong policies are needed for access to adequate food, access to income, and employment,” says Melissa Araujo, nutritionist and researcher in the Studies, Research and Practices group. in Food Environment and Health at UFMG.

She cites practical examples of food support, highlighting food banks, community kitchens, and popular restaurants. In addition, specialists also emphasize the importance of social programs for low-income people. “We have to think about confronting hunger in a more robust and multidimensional way, which is what the topic really requires,” he says.

The coordinator of the Child Health Observatory (Observa Infância) Cristiano Boccolini also underlined the importance of social programmes, in addition to the intensive investment in restructuring and resuming primary health care. The specialist points out that monitoring of young children must be ensured, focusing on vaccination, in addition to taking simpler measures, such as measuring children, “early identification of malnutrition for this age group and preventing these children from being hospitalized for any reason from malnutrition.

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