Home Child Matter Role Of Teamwork In Improving Nutritional Statues Of Malnourished Children, By Shittu...

Role Of Teamwork In Improving Nutritional Statues Of Malnourished Children, By Shittu Ahmed Obassa

children-in-queue-for-foodAnalysts say that no less than 20 per cent of Nigerian children are at a great risk of surviving beyond their  first birthday in many parts of Nigeria because of the growing menace  of malnutrition that is killing tens of thousands of them  without much efforts being made  to stem  the tide.
There  also  seems to a consensus among the  majority of the  members of  the nutrition  community that  the level  attention from the authorities to the plight of the children being ravaged by different forms of malnutrition ranging from severe acute malnutrition(SAM)  through stunting  to wasting  across the length and breadth of the country is a result of the concerns being expressed by the international donor agencies and other humanitarian organisations with the specific mandate to save the lives of the innocent souls.
Again, there is no gainsaying the fact  that  many  government officials are  still behaving like the  doubting Thomas each time statistics are reeled out by the media about the seriousness of  malnutrition silently destroying the lives of the young ones even in the least expected places like the Federal Capital Territory  where there is the seat of  power.
Only recently, the social media went viral when a report was published that  children in Kaduna State were malnourished. An altercation  between the government of Kaduna state and the United Nations Children’s Fund(UNICEF) Field Office in Kaduna ensued  over the figure reported about the state of malnourished children totalling 1.6 million. As it is expected , the Commissioners and other political aides of the governor  were fuming at the announcement of such calamitous figure.And one of the wives of the governor summoned the Nutrition Specialist at the   Kaduna Field Office, Dr. Florence Oni, along with the Communication Officer, Malam Rabiu Musa accompanied by the Chief Programme Officer  because her husband was having sleepless nights since the report broke out, quoting unicef as its source.
But when the facts and figures were laid bare the hot  argument gave way to a serious discussion about the situation on hand as  the information was authentic and being deeply touched  by the reality on the governor, Malam Nasir el-Rufa’i pledged to release  the sum of 250 million naira towards ameliorating  the deplorable condition of the  malnourished children that is even noticeable in his own Fatika  ward in Zaria where he hails from.
Impressed by the government’s action another pledge of 250 million naira came from the Kaduna field office  as a support to the cause of the hapless children. This was the second time the two parties are collaborating on the issue of malnutrition . The first was a result of the report on a set of  twins on the verge of being sent to their  early  graves at Kawo in the  Kaduna North Local Government Area of the state.
Much as the depth and the dimension of malnutrition in Nigeria arebeing  under reported by both the traditional and social  media the available statistics from unofficial quarters  indicate that  the silent killer is so ubiquitous that the homes of the rich are not left out.
Just as it is visible in highbrow areas such as Ikoyi, so it is in a far flung wards of Gidan Habibu and Gidan Dahala in Wamakko Local Government Area of SoktoState. In other words, both the
urban  and rural areas are not  immune to the menace of malnutrition and it is pertinent for all stakeholders  to rise up to the occasion at this critical time some 49,000 children  in the Internally Displaced Camps are said to be on the danger list if no assistance reaches them  in good time.
The Communication Specialist at UNICEF, Geoffery Njoku, told  the  participants at a two-day  nutrition media dialogue held in Sokoto  between 25 and 26 August, 2016, that the Nigerian authorities were indeed responding to the clarion call from stakeholders about the urgency that malnutrition  demanded but  added that the magnitude  of the problem deserved more than  the current  official efforts. According to him,  the reports reaching the government circles from the various dialogues organised by UNICEF in collaboration with the Child Rights Information Bureau of the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture have now  struck the right cord and the wife of the President, Mrs Aisha Muhammadu Buhari’s non-government organisation, known  and named “Future Assured” is picking up  the gauntlet to fight the scourge of malnutrition. She was said to have admitted the fact  that the data collated from the Owerri nutrition  media dialogue were  spurring her  to action.
It goes without saying that  the matter of children does not deserve lackadaisical attitude from anyone with conscience and that is the reason Sokoto State Commissioner of Health Dr.Shehu Balarabe Kakale appealed to media professionals to join forces with the  relevant agencies and institutions in his state to sensitise mothers on the imperative of exclusive breastfeeding that seems to suffer criminal neglect due largely to some ingrained  beliefs and social norms that have no basis in the  modern age. He noted that the means of  breeding an intelligent populace is exclusive breastfeeding just as the commonest factor destroying children’s immunity is malnutrition. To him, malnutrition is the cause of death of  as many as two children at any given moment  while  the overall growth and development of children  are better enhanced by exclusive breastfeeding.
But the snag is that most women living in the rural areas never get the right enlightenment so as  to shun archaic practices and embrace key household practices that are germane to the steady development of their young ones coupled with the fact that the heads of the households never pay  much attention  to food security  at home before migrating to the urban centres in search of  menial jobs after harvesting their  crops and selling them to the  middlemen at give-away prices because there are no  durable storage facilities with which to preserve the farm produce.
Furthermore, when the signs of malnutrition are visible the issue of getting the understanding of the men becomes a difficult one because of the religious injunction  that wives  must take permission from their husbands before stepping out of their home in search of the much needed health facility that  can rescue the malnourished children. The facility wherever available is not close by their abodes. And  the mothers will have to  trek  tens of kilometres  in order to access medical attention. Apart from the issue of  distance, the funding of the trip is not that simple to resolve when the women are known to be idle as full-time housewives.
The pitiable situation of the rural women has caused  some nutrition advocates to suggest that  the setting up of  mobile facilities for community-based management of acute  malnutrition(CMAM) will go a long way towards reducing the rate of deaths and  the number of defaulters that  are being recorded at the present facilities established in the nine local government areas in Sokoto State.
When media professionals two of the facilities in Wamakko Local Government Area the circumstances under which the medical  personnel and the patients were interacting  really stirred emotions such as pity in many. Nevertheless, their enthusiasm was never dampened.  And one was forced  to ask:What kind of incentives are they receiving from the authorities responsible for the facilities? But, Mom seemed to be the answer. However, it was gathered during the visit that   as little as 5,000 naira is given to   the volunteers every month. But yet, they still do a marvellous job of going into the villages to fish out malnourished children using the Mid Upper Arm Circumference (MUAC).  It is after the volunteers  might concluded their own bit largely on the basis of guesswork, because of old age and  lack of exposure to best practices,  that the members of the International Medical Corps begin their the work of identifying the malnourished children with complications from those having less severe malnutrition after the volunteers must concluded theirs.
As it is the usual practice, the CMAM facility takes charge of  the children using ready to use therapeutic food(RUTF)  being imported from Niger Republic, South Africa and  the United States of America(USA) while the  critical cases are sent to designated stabilisation centres  for proper medical treatment.
The concerted efforts between the volunteers and the medical personnel  at getting the malnourished children to improve their nutritional status at the various CMAM facilities in Sokoto State  in particular and elsewhere in general, deserves a kind of special  commendation and reward from the authorities. It is this kind of synergy that  enhances  the  survival of the Nigerian children  in the farthest parts of this vast country with the least presence of government in terms  of infrastructure and social amenities.
Doubtlessly, the menace of child malnutrition requires that all hands must be on deck, with each and every one contributing his or her widow’s mite towards eradicating it.
And the bottom line is  that the policy-makers, the community and religious leaders, the Nutrition Society of Nigeria, the media, international agencies and non-governmental as well as hunimanitarian organisations must cease from pursuing individual goals and objectives and start complementing  the efforts of other stakeholders towards stopping child malnutrition in the country. This is a collective responsibility as the children are our future.
Indeed, the collaborative effort of the Child Rights Information Bureau of the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture with UNICEF in facilitating the fifth in the series of  media dialogue being held  on child malnutrition now assuming the status of a national problem cannot but be commended. It is indeed the way to demonstrate teamwork and team spirit for a patriotic cause. [myad]