According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), an estimated two million children in Nigeria suffer from severe acute malnutrition, while only two out of every ten affected children are able to access treatment.
The global body also rates Nigeria as having the second highest burden of stunted children in the world with a prevalence rate of 32 percent of children that are less than five years and seven percent of women of child-bearing age suffering from acute malnutrition. In addition, maternal and child mortality present a daunting challenge to the country’s struggling healthcare system.
These worrying statistics span across several states in the country; and one of such states with high incidences of maternal and child deaths is Jigawa State in North West Nigeria.
Data released by BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, an open access, peer-reviewed journal that considers articles on all aspects of pregnancy and childbirth, showed maternal mortality ratio of 1,012 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in Jigawa State, Northern Nigeria.
Against this backdrop, the state government in collaboration with International donor agencies have committed billions of naira to tackle the seemingly persistent health challenge amongst women of child-bearing age.
This intervention, according to the Director General of the Jigawa State Primary Healthcare Development Agency, Dr Shehu Sambo, is gradually paying off especially as a 2020 SMART survey on the state indicates progress in the fight against child malnutrition with stunting rate reduced to 57.4 percent.
Sambo said the State Government, in the last 3 years, has committed over N500 million naira as part of efforts to improve nutrition among children under the age of five.
” I want to assure you that we will not relent in our efforts towards ensuring free malnutrition in the state.”
Consequently, the state has recorded a lot of improvement on the management of Malnutrition compared to 10 years back, and is expected to achieve more improvement in that direction in the coming years.
Other interventions by the State Government, Dr Sambo added, include; the inauguration of the Masaki project in 150 communities across 30 constituencies of Jigawa State.
“Under this project,10 women were trained and provided manuals to enable them to enlighten others on exclusive breastfeeding and how to use locally available food to prepare a balanced diet for children and expectant mothers.”
To ensure sustainability of the project, Sambo said Chairmen of the 27 local Government Area councils in the state contribute an average of 100,000 naira monthly as part of commitment to end malnutrition in the State.
Other interventions include; the use of locally prepared Ready-To-Use-Therapeutic-Food (RUTF) to fight malnutrition among children in the state.
RUTF is an energy dense, micronutrient enhanced paste, used in therapeutic feeding.
Sambo said the typical primary ingredients for RUTF include; Peanuts, oil, sugar, milk powder, vitamin and mineral supplements which provide all the nutrients required for recovery.
“This is a special intervention aimed at addressing child malnutrition at the community level.
“The North has been seen to record a very high level of malnutrition, probably leading the whole country.
“So we are trying to look for the solution prepared with locally sourced raw materials,’’ he added.
According to him, 36 women are selected from three communities and trained on how to prepare the solution using locally sourced raw materials.
“Twelve women were selected from each of the three pilot communities and trained on how to prepare the solution locally.
“It is our hope that the technical skills they received during the training will enable them to ensure that as malnutrition starts at the community level, it is addressed at the community level using their local resources.
“The major idea of this initiative is that women are taught how to identify and measure malnourished children, provide appropriate intervention as well as evaluate the performance of their children over a period of time.
“It is also to enable the women to prepare the solution without waiting for any foreign material from outside their respective communities,’’ the state Director of Primary Healthcare Development said.
According to him, the women are expected to step down the training to other women in their respective communities.
“The initiative will be extended to all communities across the 27 local government areas of the state. We are hopeful that the gesture will be appreciated,” he said.