From Fred Ezeh, Abuja
In 2017, The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) introduced Multiple Micronutrients Powder (MMNP) to mothers and caregivers in Kebbi and Adamawa states to assist them tackle the challenges of malnutrition in the states.
The powder contains necessary and essential nutrients required for speedy and healthy development of a child in his or her first 23 months. This, apparently, was to complement the work of the Ready to Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) in the fight against malnutrition in Kebbi and other states with high burden of malnutrition.
Avaliable data indicated that Kebbi was among states in Nigeria with a high burden of malnutrition, which has often led to stunted growth among children of development age. However, years of several interventions heralded significant improvement in the situation but there is still cause for concern for the state government and international donor agencies involved in the response to malnutrition and other child health issues in Nigeria.
State nutrition officer, Beatrice Kwere, told Daily Sun that the introduction of the micronutrient powder to mothers and caregivers has saved thousands of Kebbi children from stunted growth and untimely death.
She admitted that malnutrition has been one of the major challenges of the state as regards child care, and the state government and other international agencies have worked assiduously to improve on nutrition in the state as evident in the available data of malnutrition in Kebbi.
Bekwere disclosed that, in 2018, a total of 35,778 children benefitted from the MMNP. In 2019, it increased to 72,827 children. She said the level of acceptance and usage has increased, as reflected in the record books.
It was also gathered that mothers and caregivers who have seen the benefit and impact of the micronutrient powder in the lives of their babies have been engaged to propagate the message to other women, particularly in rural communities, whose babies are suffering from malnutrition.
In communities across four local government areas in Kebbi State, namely, Kalgo, Argungu, Augie and Birnin Kebbi, mothers and other caregivers who benefitted from the powder attested to the efficacy of the supplement, saying it has been “magical” in helping their children grow and develop.
Abbas Abdullahi, the focal person in PHC Kalgo, said they have consistently engaged and educated mothers who often visit the hospital for ante-natal or post-natal services on the need for basic nutrients in foods they give to their babies after six months of (possible) exclusive breastfeeding recommended for the women.
He explained further: “By the end of the six months, when (solid) food is gradually introduced to the babies, we present the formula to the mothers and encourage them to use it because of its richness in basic nutrients, some of which are absent in the foods the babies are fed with. After the first three months, break is observed for three months before the second dose is given to the mothers.
“It has been extremely helpful to the babies in terms of healthy growth and development. So far, 23 babies and counting have been introduced to the solution. 18 babies in February and 14 babies in March. We carry out close observation of the babies and they have been developing well and healthy without side effects.”
In Badariya PHC, Birnin Kebbi LGA, a mother of seven children, Samira Aliyu, said she never hesitated to introduce the micronutrient to her baby, Asad Aliyu, immediately he was six months old.
She said: “I saw the impact of powder in the child I had before Asad, and I decided that I must use it for Asad. I can confess that it has been extremely effective, which could be seen in his healthy growth and development. My two children that used the powder, Asad and his immediate elder brother, look healthier than my other five children that never had the privilege of enjoying it. I have been the one telling my fellow women about the powder, having seen the impact.”
Fatima Alhassan, in charge of the PHC, said the introduction of the solution has saved many children from falling into the camp of malnourished children. She confirmed that babies that used the formula have been developing well, with no side effects, thus giving their parents the joy of parenthood.
She said records at the PHC indicated that 27 children were introduced to the formula in January, 17 babies in February, and 24 babies in March.
She confirmed constant availability of the formula, which has made it easier for the mothers and caregivers to continue giving their babies the formula after the three-month break.
In Augie LGA, the focal person, Haruna Abdulkadir, said the response from women has been impressive, attributing it to the efforts of community leaders and other health workers who worked assiduously to educate and enlighten mothers and caregivers on the importance of the powder to the healthy growth and development of babies, especially the malnourished ones.
Meanwhile, in Argungu PHC, Saratu Ibrahim, a mother of five, said, “My son suddenly begun to lose weight speedily, looking famished, unhealthy and his skin and hair changing colour rapidly. This was shortly before he clocked six months. My husband and I were worried, and so were my extended family members and neighbours too.
“Amid the confusion and not knowing what to do in such case, someone quickly suggested that i rush my baby to nearby Primary Healthcare Centre (PHC) in Argungu, Kebbi State, where a healthcare worker confirmed absence of vital nutrients that could have enhanced and fastened healthy growth and development of my son.
“After educating and enlightening me, she introduced me to the micronutrient powders, which, expectedly, did the ‘magic’ within the first few months of usage. With each passing day of usage, my son was visibly getting better, regaining weight, eating well, and growing healthier and stronger. I noticed significant changes in his physical activities and mental development, and that could be attributed to the nutritent powder that was being added to his food.”
She attested to the efficacy and usefulness of the formula, suggesting that access to the MMNP should be expanded, especially among mothers and caregivers in northern states with high malnutrition burden.