Managing Malnutrition : Tourningal Keeps Up Pioneering, Leading Role
A big health centre with five smaller ones under its oversight authority, Tourningal was the first to introduce nutrition care 10 years ago in a portion of Ngaoundere Rural Health District in Adamawa Region.
With a population of 22,065 people - second only to Belel Integrated Health Centre that caters for 27,000 people – Tourningal Integrated Health Centre is in several respects a leader in Ngaoundere Rural Health District. Located in northern Cameroon’s Adamawa Region, Tourningal village is 60 km from Ngaoundere, the regional headquarters.
“Our health centre was the first in the area to begin caring for cases of malnutrition about 10 years ago,” recalls Pabame Andre, head of the State-owned health facility. “Ever since, tremendous reductions have been noticed in the number of Severe Acute Malnutrition, SAM cases, especially with the administration of Plumpy Nuts,” Pabame added. He was briefing a group of visiting journalists in the centre on September 6, 2019.
Assisted by 17 Community Health Volunteers – all trained to detect malnutrition, and who regularly visit pregnant and nursing mothers at home - Tourningal Integrated Health Centre in September 2019 has only 10 SAM cases. On the other hand, pap enrichment demonstrations at home were introduced in Tourningal in March 2019. “The target is babies aged 6 to 23 months who underwent exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months of life,” said Pabame.
“Nursing mothers used to offer their children maize pap enriched only with fresh cow milk. But now, habits are changing as the women serve “five-star” or enriched pap to their babies,” Pabame Andre underscored with an air of contentment.
“Tourningal nursing mothers are in love with Plumpy Nuts. Each time they see the delivery vehicle from Ngaoundere drive into the health centre, everyone comes rushing to collect their share. But we always remind them that Plumpy Nuts are meant for sick babies; not to prevent malnutrition,” Andre pointed out with a wide smile. Unlike in the past, there is no more rupture in Plumpy Nuts and micronutrients supply in Tourningal, the health centre head assured.
Nevertheless, the facility faces a number of challenges. They include the need for a separate ward for Severe Acute Malnutrition patients; instead of combining them with other patients. Also, the health centre’s motor bike is broken down, thereby hampering field activities.