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Sierra Leone
Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) in Ebola emergency

By Emmanuel Senessie

Ebola is real and has affected the lives of many people. Although this disease is serious, it can be prevented.  During an emergency situation we are faced with huge challenges and usually initially confused and chaotic.  Hunger and malnutrition are rampant among people, many of whom – infants, children, adolescents, adults and the elderly – suffer from one or more of the multiple forms of malnutrition. Besides weight loss, deficiencies of micronutrients are common in emergencies.

Hunger and malnutrition inhibit the normal growth and impede the ability of our children in particular to develop into adulthood for effective contribution to nation building. Precisely, it is established that malnourished children grow up poorly and perform poorly in their educational pursuits.  With limited education and skills, their economic productivity in society will be limited.  Under-nutrition deprives our country of much needed human resources for socio-economic transformation.  Our Government and Development Partners are determined to eradicate diseases, hunger and malnutrition.

Nutrition and the ability to fight diseases

Every human being is born with immune systems to fight diseases caused by disease causing agents including bacteria, viruses, or other microorganisms.

Some people can survive certain diseases but others will succumb to death from the same disease. This has baffled many people, especially those who have not been given the scientific explanation. They ascribe it all to witchcraft, or to a family curse. Science tells us that our immune system has many processes: The first of these is to stop the disease from entering the body; the second is to fight diseases causing agents that have entered the body so that they cannot make you sick. Thirdly our immune system can kill the bacteria and viruses after they have made us sick.

When bacteria and viruses enter our body, a healthy immune system will develop an antibody (also known as an immunoglobulin, a protein produced by the immune system to identify and neutralize foreign objects such as bacteria and viruses). No one knows when these bacteria and viruses will attack our bodies. A good army prepares for war in times of peace. So we should not wait for attacks of diseases before we start building our immune system. We should start building a good immune system now.

One way to build a good immune system is through good nutrition. In practice, good nutrition means putting emphasis on fruits, vegetables, grains, fish, poultry products, low fat and milk products. These can help us develop a strong immune system that will lower the risk of infections. Unhealthy eating and physical inactivity are leading causes of diseases and illness.

The common denominator among all types of malnutrition is nutritionally inappropriate diets. The nature and underlying causes of malnutrition are complex and multidimensional.  The multi-facetted nature of the causes of malnutrition requires stronger linkages with all relevant government sectors and multinational stakeholders.

Addressing the multidimensional nature of the causes of malnutrition will be best done through a well-coordinated multi-sectoral approach. The aim of coordinating our efforts is to support families, communities and nutrition stakeholders at all levels in the country to minimize duplication, address unnecessary wastage of resources, ensure fair distribution of available resources and maximize the benefits accrued to the beneficiary population.

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