7 Northern states move to save 1.59m malnourished children, mothers
Seven states in the North-West of Nigeria are fighting to stem the scourge of malnutrition which has affected more than 1,594,462 children in the region.
The United Nation Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates that every single day, Nigeria loses about 2,300 under-fives and 145 women of child-bearing age, making Nigeria the second largest contributor to the under-five deaths and maternal mortality rate in the world.
Also, UNICEF’s estimate showed that Nigeria has been adversely affected by Severe Acute Malnutrition, SAM, with the number of malnourished children put at 2,539,704.
A check by the News Agency of Nigeria reveals that the seven states in the zone account for more than 75 per cent of the total severe malnutrition cases recorded in Nigeria in 2016.
NAN reports that the governments of Kano, Kaduna, Jigawa, Kebbi, Sokoto, Katsina and Sokoto states are, however, taking measures to provide medication to affected women and children, and prevent new cases.
In Kaduna, which has an estimated 263,495 cases of acutely malnourished children aged six to 59 months in 2016, the state government and UNICEF had injected more than N824 million in 2016 to tackle the menace.
The government also made a provision of N137 million in its 2017 budget for the procurement of therapeutic fo Jane Gwani, the Nutrition Officer in the state Ministry of Health and Human Resources told NAN that strategies adopted so far were helping to reverse the situation.
She said that the state had collaborated with other relevant stakeholders across communities, public and private sector, civil society, government ministries, department and agencies to effectively contain the situation.
She disclosed that the state currently operates 17 Community Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) centres – six in Zaria, six in Makarfi and one in Ikara local government area.
“Others are one each at the Kaduna State University Teaching Hospital; General Hospital Kachia; General Hospital Kafanchan and General Hospital Birnin Gwari.
“And so far, about 2, 525 malnourished children were admitted in the CMAM sites in Zaria alone, out of which 800 fully recovered, while 52 died between March and August 2016.
“This is in addition to many ongoing interventions, some of which include promotion of exclusive breast feeding and proper infant and young child feeding.,” Ms. Gwani added.
Florence Oni, UNICEF’s Nutrition Specialist in the state, however, said there was need to do more, given the number of children suffering from malnutrition in the state.
In Kebbi, the government says it is working with UNICEF to provide nutrition support to the 216,795 estimated to be acutely malnourished in 2016.
NAN reports that the figure did not include the over 500, 000 children that are stunted in the state.
NAN learnt that the government had spent N100 million in 2016 on the matter, and according to UNICEF’s Chief Nutritionist in the state, Arjan Dewatt, the collaboration would reduce maternal and child death.
He said the joint effort was also aimed at improving the nutritional status of pregnant women and children under five years in the state.
He said 77,000 children aged between zero to six months did not get exclusive breast feeding, which is the most cost effective intervention to prevent malnutrition and save lives.
“The records indicated that 174,000 of the 200,000 pregnant women in the state do not take iron supplements to prevent anaemia and stillbirth,” he added.
Mr. Dewatt said the partnership with the state had, however, helped to counsel 88,000 women on breastfeeding and family best practice.
Reports from Kano State indicates that no fewer than 55,000 children were treated for acute malnutrition in 2016.
The figure is far short of the 397,515 estimated in 2016 to be acutely malnourished.
Ayodeji Osunkentan, a Consultant Nutritionist with UNICEF, however, told NAN that the level of malnutrition in the state was being controlled with support from the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation through CMAM.
He said that with more commitment and proactiveness of the government, the issue of malnutrition would be eliminated completely.
Also commenting, a nutritionist with the state ministry of health, Murtala Ibrahim, stressed the need for the government to focus more on bringing the problem under control.
He said that 54 per cent of child death in the state was due to malnutrition, and stressed that government must employ the services of experts to address the situation.
He commended UNICEF for its intervention in the treatment of acute malnutrition in the state, disclosing that 50 intervention centres were established in six local government areas of the state through CMAM.
“The local government areas included Bichi, Kano Municipal, Madobi, Sumaila, Tsanyawa and Wudil.”
In Katsina State, the government said it had treated no fewer than 245,789 malnourished children between 2010 and 2016.
Records from UNICEF indicates that the state had an estimated acute malnutrition cases of up to 278,079 in 2016 alone.
Rabiya Muhammad, the state Nutrition Officer, said that a total of 318, 689 children were admitted for malnutrition ailment in the last six years.
According to her, 80,000 children are currently receiving treatment at the various Community Management of Acute Malnutrition centres in 15 local governments of the state.
She explained that the state has 105 CMAM centres in the 15 out of the 34 local government areas in the state.
The nutritionist said the support of development partners had helped to reduce the high rate of malnutrition in the state.
Ms. Muhammad revealed that the state government had released N200 million in November 2016 for nutrition programmes.
The officer attributed the high rate of malnutrition cases to poverty and ignorance on the part of mothers on how to prepare nutritious diet.
Ms. Muhammad urged mothers to practice exclusive breast feeding and to take carbohydrates,
Katsina State is the second state in the north-west with highest number of malnourished children.
Reports from Zamfara indicated that the level of government intervention was not encouraging in a state where an estimated 68,382 children and mothers have acute malnutrition in 2016.
Isa Maru, the state Communication Officer of Save the Children, however, said the government has agreed to provide additional funding in its 2017 budget for nutrition programmes..
Mr. Maru said that the organisation had mobilised the 14 local government chairmen in the state to support efforts at tackling acute malnutrition and save the lives of children.
He recalled that the Emir of Bakura and that of Shinkafi had made donations in the past to tackle acute malnutrition in their domain.
In Sokoto State, the estimated acute malnutrition cases in 2016 was put at 34,419 and the state government said it would start producing Ready to Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF), a nutrient used in treating malnutrition.
The state Commissioner for Health, Balarabe Kakale, said it would be cheaper to set up a factory to produce the supplement than continue to buy it from abroad.
Mr. Kakale said: “The state government can no longer afford to continue to spend on the importation of RUTF which is produced from groundnut paste.
Also, the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Almustapha Othman, said the government had conducted a scientific research and feasibility study on the planned production of the food.
The state Nutritionist, Ali Hamza, said CMAM sites had been set up in nine local government areas of the state with 46 centres distributing the RUTF.
He said that the sites were located in Binji, Gada, Goronyo, Gudu, Illela, Sabon-Birni, Sokoto South, Tangaza and Wamakko Local Governments.
Mr. Hamza further said that children were being administered with Vitamin A supplements, as well as deworming tablets, among others.
According to him, malnutrition prevalence in the state has been reduced by about 10 per cent in the state since the introduction of the two programmes.
Details on the various intervention strategies adopted to tackle the issue in Jigawa were not immediately available, but the state is said to have an estimated 167,364 acute malnutrition cases in 2016.(NAN)