Amina Usman looking so fragile and weak was suffering from Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) at the age of two and could not at the time walk nor talk. Like many other children in Borno State, little Usman had severe SAM that almost cost her life.
Her mother, Saa’datu not understanding what her daughter’s illness was, took her on a 6 hours long journey to a health care faculty for treatment. She came back to her community with no answer and her toddler still not treated, sitting between life and death.
Children suffering from severe acute malnutrition like Amina are nine times more likely to die from related complications than healthy children are. She is one of the estimated 450 000 children who are malnourished in the Northeastern region of Nigeria and requiring varying degrees of therapeutic interventions.
Malnutrition locks children into a cycle of poverty. When a child doesn’t get the food they need, their growth can become stunted, making them more vulnerable to disease.
Without proper nutrition, a child’s brain may not develop to its full cognitive ability. When children are repeatedly ill, their body can struggle to retain the nutrients of an already meager daily diet.
Repeated illnesses can affect their families, who may have to miss work or school to look after the child and spend more of their limited resources and income on medical care.
The majority of children who are stunted come from families living in poverty and who already under considerable financial stress.
Recent nutrition assessment in the three most-affected states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states in the region indicate various degrees of malnutrition among children under-5 and pregnant or lactating mothers.
While six LGAs (Jakusko, Karasuwa, Machina, Nguru, Yunusari and Yunufari) in Yobe state present a critical rate of global acute malnutrition (GAM) above the 15% emergency threshold, five LGAs in northern Borno (Abadam, Mobbar, Guzamala, Kukawa, and Nganzai) showed between 10-14% GAM.
Generally, 2.7 million women and children in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states need nutrition support including 310 000 children in need of treatment for severe acute malnutrition (SAM) and 250 000 who suffer from moderate acute malnutrition.
With the support of its partners, the World Health Organisation (WHO), has been providing active life-saving medical assistance to the affected children and population.
In addition to having screened more than one million children for malnutrition in 2018 alone, including nearly 10 000 severely acute malnourished and 40 000 moderately acute malnourished children, WHO and partners are supporting activities to prevent malnutrition, early detection and treatment of malnourished children with medical complications.
From January 2018 to date, WHO has provided 127 Severe Acute Malnutrition kits to 30 stabilization centres across the Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states with which nearly 8 000 children were treated for medical complications.
To stem this tide, stakeholders working in the media and health sectors are calling for the inclusion of child nutrition as a major component of the Basic Healthcare Provision Fund (BHCPF) saying, doing so would go a long way in addressing the menace of SAM in Nigeria.
Speaking during a workshop organized by the Association of Nigeria Health Journalists (ANHEJ) in collaboration with the International Society for Media in Public Health (ISMPH) in Abuja recently;
a public health expert with the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) Olayinka Oladimeji, lamented that child malnutrition has remained a major public health challenge in the 36 states of the Federation including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
According to him, malnutrition account for about 30% of all under five deaths. He said Ready to Use Therapeutic Foods, RUTF, which is used in tackling malnutrition were not available in the country but provided through interventions by UNICEF.
Representative of Save the Children, Seun Okediran, who reaffirmed the commitment of organization to accelerate progress by tackling childhood pneumonia, which according to her is the biggest infectious disease killing children in Nigeria, she added that improving child nutrition is essential to meeting the commitment.
‘’Save the children focus is on the first 1,000 days; from the start of a woman’s pregnancy through her child’s second birthday which is the time frame that we call the ‘’window opportunity’’ for good nutrition.
‘’We work with partners at global, regional, national community and household levels to prevent and treat malnutrition by bringing multi-sectoral nutrition intervention to the most disadvantaged families.
In Nigeria, we collaborate with the ministries of health at the federal and state levels, national and state primary health care development agencies and other relevant MDAs to ensure that nutrition is at the forefront of affairs and every child is given the right to optimum nutrition especially in the first 1000 days.
‘’we believe that with the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF) in place to provide for basic package of services in the Primary Health Care Centers, (PHCS), the PHC will be of minimum standard to provide basic preventive and curative services to all Nigerians.
‘’It is therefore imperative that we all as stakeholders maximize this opportunity to ensure that the promotion of maternal, infant and child nutrition among pregnant women, mothers/ caregivers of children under two at various contact points at PHC- such as Anti-natal care,
out-patients clinic, child- welfare/ growth monitoring clinic, immunization, family planning is forecasted and budgeted for by the in-charges of the PHCs as they are accountable for the implementation of the BHCPF at the facility level’’, she said.
On her part, Veteran journalist and Chief Executive Officer of ISMPH , Chief Moji Makanjuola, called on the Federal government to priorities nutrition because many Nigerian children were dying daily from SAM, and that malnourished children were susceptible to the commonest infections.
While calling on members of the Association of Nigeria Health Journalists (ANHEJ) to utilize resources at its disposal in reducing the prevalence of diseases in the country she added that the media also has a role to play in ensuring release of budget lines for nutrition.’’
often times nutrition gets little or nothing even from the Federal Ministry of Health. I uieged you all to utilize the the resources at your disposal in reducing the prevalence of diseases in the country’’, she added.