Women work to combat malnutrition in children
A women's group in the Marshall Islands says it is doing what it can do combat alarming rates of child malnutrition and diabetes in the country.
Women United Together Marshall Islands, or WUTNI, says it is working hard to combat high levels of child malnutrition and diabetes in the country by educating low-income and teen mothers from the time they become pregnant.
The Single State Agency have said its research measuring children and testing for diabetes has shown alarming results, and underscores the point that diabetes prevention cannot wait until adulthood.
The executive director of WUTNI, Kathryn Relang, says the problem is caused by lack of exercise, too much imported food and not enough education on what foods babies need to be healthy.
She told Mary Baines malnutrition and diabetes in children is a common problem in the Marshall Islands - but its Parents As Teachers programme is doing what it can to turn the situation around.
KATHRYN RELANG: For me, I see it everywhere in the Marshalls, where children are very malnourished, and diabetes here is really at an alarming high rate, the NCDs here in the Marshalls including high blood pressure and cancers.
MARY BAINES: So what's the cause of it? Why is it so prevalent in the Marshall Islands?
KR: Well it's definitely our lifestyle and the food that we eat. A lot of the goods here in the Marshalls are imported goods, and that includes the ones high in fat and sugar and we tend to purchase those foods instead of resort to our local foods. We also lack the space to plant our own local food or to have big farms that we could live off of our local food. But also we don't exercise a lot. You know every now and then there will be sports leagues or just kids playing on the fields but there's no specific areas available for people to just go and exercise.
MB: I understand as part of your Parents As Teachers programme you work with educating mothers and nutrition is quite a big thing for you.
KR: We notice that a lot of the mums themselves maybe are malnourished or they're not ensuring that they go see a doctor or get their medical check-ups, or even their pre-natal check-ups. So we encourage them to attend those, especially the pre-natal, and taking their vitamins. And then we have a nutritionist, because we're not nutritionists ourselves, so we invite someone from the Ministry of Health to come and conduct some lessons on nutrition, especially when the baby has just been born or even when the baby is in the womb what sort of food the mum should be eating at the time she's pregnant and what foods the baby should be getting at various stages of the baby's life.
MB: In terms of government intervention, is there enough being done to stop this growing issue?
KR: With the Non Communicable Diseases Declaration, which was quite big to really oversee what really needs to be done, I think that's been a great step for the government. Our funding to support the Parents As Teachers programme comes from the Ministry of Education so there's also financial support from government to really continue on our effort. But there are things that we, you know, could be doing more.
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