Gombe strategises, confronts malnutrition
From Ali Abare, Gombe
For two-year old Jamila Garba, who is currently receiving treatment for acute malnutrition at the Community-based Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) Centre located at the Primary Healthcare Centre, Kumbiya-Kumbiya, Gombe State, life may not be the same again for her.
Jamila, whose mother reportedly weaned her just one year after birth may end up spending the rest of her life either stunted, under-weight, wasted or may even be exposed to severe health risks. According to her aunty who brought her to the centre, Jamila was healthy at birth, but her condition deteriorated five months after her mother abruptly stopped weaning her.
Fatima Adamu, the aunty, said: “She was removed from the breast just after a year of her birth. She became malnourished because she did not take sufficient breast milk.” She the added that even though Jamila was continuously fed with other food substances, particularly fish and liver, she still got malnourished: “Whenever we feed her with either fish or liver, she passes lots of watery stool.”
On why Jamila was weaned for just a year after birth, Fatima disclosed that the baby’s mother having been divorced from her husband separated her baby from the breast “because her father failed to provide for their upkeep.” She explained that after arriving at the health centre, Jamila was prevented from taking her prescribed treatment because family members thought she had been healed after taking the RUTF for three weeks.
However, Jamila suffered a relapse but since she was brought back again five months ago, her condition has improved drawing positive comments from sympathizers.
Mrs. Amina Nuhu, Community Health Officer at the medical centre, said the turnout of malnourished children at the facility was high considering that patients from neigbouring local government areas also bring their malnourished babies. She identified exclusive breastfeeding as a major challenge among the women who came to the centre:
“The women in rural areas don’t want to breastfeed their children exclusively. That is, breastfeeding children from birth to six months without adding anything like water or food supplement. This is basically our challenge because the breast milk helps to prevent the children from infections like diarrhea and vomiting.”
According to her, four severely malnourished children died at the centre last month. She, however, commended the state government for supplying the centre with adequate RUTF: “We are thankful to government because the plumpv nut we give to malnourished children is always available.
“My call to breastfeeding and nursing mothers is for them to breastfeed their children exclusively from birth to six months.” She equally emphasized on taking advantage of available local food substances to adequately feed their babies. She explained how health officers at the centre teach nursing mothers how to prepare local recipe like Kunu which is high in protein using local foods like soya beans, groundnut and guinea corn.
For Zaharradin Sabiu, Save the Children, Gombe Office, early weaning remains a major contributor to the issue of malnutrition. He said of the children admitted at the CMAM, 70 percent of the cases arose because of early weaning:
“A child is supposed to be breastfed for up to 24 months. If you wean earlier, there is every tendency for the child to get malnourished.”
He also explained the negative consequences of an entrenched culture among the people in the area where nursing mothers send their babies to live with their grandparents, a situation which he said not only create problems while weaning but was also responsible for malnutrition among children:
“There is also a strategy for weaning children. You don’t just cut off breastfeeding in a single day like is being done in the rural areas when mothers decide to wean by taking children to live with grandparents.
“It has to take some processes like introducing other food supplements during the complimentary feeding. By introducing other foods gradually the child gets weaned without having to undergo some psychologically trying moment.”
A report released by the Gombe State Nutrition Officer, Suleiman Mamman, indicates that as of December 30, 2016, a total of 13,059 children (6483 boys and 6570 girls) ages 6 – 59 months were admitted across CMAM facilities in the state, out of which 11,531 were cured, 657 defaulted, 117 non-recovered and 87 died which represents 92% cure rate, 6.6% defaulter rate, 1.2% non-recovered and 0.8% death
The Gombe State Nutrition Officer during a training session for journalists in the state explained the need to disseminate the Food and Nutrition Policy which he described as a document that provides the framework for addressing the problems of food and nutrition insecurity in the state, from the individual, household, community up to the state level. It guides the identification, design, and implementation of intervention activities across different relevant sectors.
Mamman disclosed that in order to address the challenges of malnutrition among children in the state, the state government had unfolded a cost plan of action that took a comprehensive approach to addressing the issues related to nutrition in the state.
“It is a multi-sectoral plan that requires joint implementation by the various related Ministries and Parastatals in the state including Economic Planning, Agriculture, Health, Women Affairs, Education, Information, Water Resources, Local Governments and Finance. It also calls for the involvement of Private Sector players and CSOs” Mamman further explained.
Mamman noted that the goal of this plan is to attain optimal nutritional status for people in Gombe State, with particular emphasis on the most vulnerable groups such as children, adolescents, women, elderly, and groups with special nutritional needs.
He however listed some of the challenges confronting the fight against malnutrition to include, none release of nutrition budget by the state government, inadequate budget for nutrition programmes and activities as well as poor implementation of the policies. He emphasized on the need to scale up CMAM activities in the state to cover all the 11 local government areas so that children from rural areas in order “to reduce under nutrition among infants and children, adolescents, and women of reproductive age, reduce micronutrient deficiency disorders, especially among the vulnerable groups.”