Saving Lives: Improving support for children with eating and drinking difficulties

07.11.12

In Bulgaria over the past few years we have made significant progress on supporting the government in a large-scale programme of deinstitutionalisation.  To form the basis of planning the services required to replace the institutions, we carried out assessments of the needs of 1800 children with disabilities living in institutions, and their families.

In the process of this assessment we identified that there were significant numbers of children in life-threatening situations due to lack of appropriate care in their institutions. At the request of the Government, and in partnership with them, Lumos immediately implemented a major intervention to reduce mortality rates and improve the health and development of those children most at risk. We are delighted to be able to say that, within six months of our intervention, mortality rates in those institutions had reduced by 90%.

How our intervention worked:

We arranged for a Lumos consultant to visit one of the institutions where infant mortality was high, which had a very high number of children with profound disabilities. The consultant assessed the specific nutritional needs of the children and offered institution staff specialist guidance on ensuring that children at risk are receiving enough nutrients via food and drink.

The assessments of children in critical condition found that this situation had arisen largely as a consequence of institutionalisation – some children with disabilities need particular, personalised, attention to help them eat and drink properly and the lack of individual attention, communication and stimulation in the institution was affecting their development.

Lumos then made comprehensive recommendations for improvements in the practical methods of feeding children and young people with disabilities. Our consultants have been introducing the intensive interaction method to baby institutions in the country. As a result, institution staff have started to see improvements: some children have started communicating by smiling, laughing, crying, singing and cuddling; they have started to make eye contact and interact with adults; some children have gained weight and have grown in height; a number of children are no longer eating in their bed and their independence while feeding has increased.

"We are delighted to be able to say that within six months of our intervention, mortality rates in those institutions had reduced by 90%"

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