Malnutrition, a serious problem confronting PNG families | Barbara Angoro

Couple of things but I’d like to talk about.

First, the kind of food we are giving our babies and second, the implications of being an underweight baby.
Foods we are giving our babies 

We all can be advocates for our future generation.
If you have a family member who is under five, be that child’s advocate.

Pay attention to the kinds of foods being given to the child. Junk food like cheesepop and fizzy drinks, or just one type of food, for example, a piece of kaukau as a main meal is not healthy and people must not think that it is enough for the kid. Sure, kids have a small stomach capacity, but we must ensure they take small portions of all the important food groups. Getting the right kinds of food at this young age helps with their normal physical and mental development. We need a population that is healthy physically and mentally to contribute to a better PNG.

What happens when a child is moderate to severely underweight? 

Hospitalization is usually the go-to intervention for those severely underweight.
Our health workers manage as best as possible with interventions to bring the weight up to normal. Mind you, it’s not as straightforward as it sounds. Children can, and most times will develop complications as a result of being underweight, so these must be taken care of as well. Beyond the hospital, the effects of being underweight can affect the future of a child and their ability to learn and earn.

Why am I going on about all this?

Simple: PNG has a health system that has enough to deal with already.

If we all can help it, help our kids be healthy  so they avoid ending up in hospital with condition that can be avoided in the first instance. Our nation has organic foods that are amongst the best in the world. Let’s all start advocating for healthy foods for our babies. If not sure what the best foods are, don’t hesitate to ask the staff at MCHC. Which reminds me, please advocate for the babies/kids in your family to go for regular MCHC visits so that important things like child weight are regularly taken. If there were early signs of continuous weight loss, early intervention would be given rather than waiting until the child is not doing well.

Malnutrition is defined in the Oxford dictionary as “lack of proper nutrition, caused by not having enough to eat, not eating of the right things, or being unable to use the food that one does eat.” Malnutrition is a term that covers undernutrition (wasting, stunting, underweight), micro-nutrient related malnutrition and overweight (WHO Fact Sheet 2020). In this post, I’d like to talk about the problem of underweight seen in children under 5 years of age in our beautiful country, Papua New Guinea (PNG).Whether many people in PNG realize it or not, we have children under five of age who suffer from moderate to severe underweight in our country.

Yes! You read that correct.

Our kids are hospitalized because their precious little bodies do not have the proper nutrition to develop not just physically but mentally as well. In worse case scenario, children die because of being severely underweight. A UNICEF report of 2018 highlights undernutrition as a big challenge in PNG.

PNG Health Sector Performance Annual Review (SPAR) has an indicator that tracks that; Indicator 2 – information is collected through National Health Information System (NHIS) on % children moderately (60-80% weight for age) or severely  (Only two provinces (Chimbu and NCD) reported less than 10% whilst one province did not provide a report. If you look at the trend in the past 5 years, nothing has really changed much in the figures.

(Note: I understand that there are health conditions that affect how a kid absorbs important nutrients for growth, so this post does not cover these kids. This post is concerning those that are not fed properly or not given the right types of foods to eat. In addition, there is an element of socioeconomic contributing factor to underweight/undernourishment but I have not touched on that – perhaps a follow up post will.)

2 comments on “Malnutrition, a serious problem confronting PNG families | Barbara Angoro

  1. Thanks for sharing this piece Scott. It is a topic close to my heart, ever since taking charge of two quite undernourished children. One child was 3 years old with the weight of a 1 year old & her mother, who is born & raised in the city, did not seem to realise how serious this was.


  2. Reblogged this on Rudee’s Random Write-ups and commented:
    The amount of malnutrition today, in Papua New Guinea, is quite alarming when you consider that our population is expanding rapidly. The message of proper & adequate nutrition is not filtering through to each successive generation. We must turn this around.


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