Challenges in Implementing the Integrated Community-Based Outpatient Therapeutic Program for Severely Malnourished Children in Rural Southern Ethiopia.
Currently, treatment of uncomplicated severe acute malnutrition is managed in the integrated Community based Outpatient Therapeutic Program (C-OTP) using ready-to-use therapeutic foods (RUTFs). The aim of this study was to determine challenges in implementing the critical steps in C-OTP and caregivers’ perceptions of service provision in southern Ethiopia. A total of 1048 caregivers of children admitted to the OTP and 175 Health Extension Workers (HEWs) from 94 selected health posts were included in the study. Program admission, follow-up and exit information was collected from caregivers during home visits. HEWs were interviewed at their respective health posts. Only 46.6% (481/1032) were given the recommended amount of RUTF and 19.3% (196/1015) were given antibiotics on admission. During C-OTP participation 34.9% (316/905) had uninterrupted provision of the recommended amount of RUTF. Of the children who left the program, 220/554 (39.7%) exited the program in line with the national recommendation. Caregivers (42.9% (394/918) and HEWs (37.1%, 62/167) perceive that RUTFs were being sold as a commodity. Inadequate provision and unintended usage of RUTFs, lack of antibiotics and inappropriate exit from the program were major constraints. For successful saving of lives, adequate resources must be allocated, and providers must be trained regularly, and supervised properly.