Nutritional monitoring of preschool-age children by community volunteers during armed conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
FOOD AND NUTRITION BULLETIN
Universite Libre de Bruxelles
Background. The coverage of preschool preventive medical visits in developing countries is still low. Consequently, very few children benefit from continuous monitoring during the first 5 years of life.
Objective. To assess community volunteers' effectiveness in monitoring the growth of preschool-age children in a context of endemic malnutrition and armed conflict.
Methods. Community volunteers were selected by village committees and trained to monitor children growth in their respective villages. Community volunteers monitored 5,479 children under 5 years of age in the Lwiro Health Sector of the Democratic Republic of the Congo from January 2004 to December 2005 under the supervision of the district health office. Children weight was interpreted according to weight-for-age curves drawn on the growth sheet proposed by the World Health Organization and adopted by the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Results. During the 2-year program, the volunteers weighed children under 5 years of age monthly. The median percentage of children weighed per village varied between 80% and 90% for children of 12-59 months, and 80% and 100% for children of less than 12 months even during the conflict period. The median percentage of children between 12 and 59 months of age per village ranked as highly susceptible to malnutrition by the volunteers decreased from 4.2% (range, 0% to 35.3%) in 2004 to 2.8% (range, 0.0% to 18.9%) in 2005.
Conclusions. The decentralization of weighing of children to the community level could be an alternative for improving growth monitoring of preschool-age children in situations of armed conflict or political instability. This option also offers an opportunity to involve the community in malnutrition care and can be an entry point for other public health activities.