Abdulrazaq Mungadi, Gombe
The coalition working on Maternal Neonatal and Child Health (MNCH) in Gombe has called on the state government to review its strategy for addressing the issue of Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) which is said to be like a tragedy that is set to devastate the state.
According to the Chairman of the coalition Malam Alhassan Yahya, the rate of SAM is so high to the point that between June 2019 and May 2020 about 12,000 cartons of the Ready to Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) worth over N340 million was consumed within 10 months in the state.
He added that in April 2020, the state governor, Muhammadu Inuwa Yahaya ordered the release of N25 million for the purchase of over 1, 400 cartons of the RUTF which was also consumed within a few months. Alhassan said: “As am talking to you now Gombe is currently out of stoke of the RUTF and many children are in great danger”.
RUTF is energy-dense, micronutrient enhanced pastes used in therapeutic feeding to revive children that are severely malnourished. According to UNICEF RUTF has revolutionized the treatment of uncomplicated forms of SAM among children. The soft food is said to be a homogenous mix of lipid-rich foods, with a nutritional profile similar to the World Health Organization-recommended therapeutic milk formula used for inpatient therapeutic feeding program as it primary ingredients include peanuts, oil, sugar, milk powder and vitamin as well as mineral supplements.
According Alhassan, for several reasons, RUTF is essential for the Community-based Management of children suffering from uncomplicated SAM and who retain an appetite. “However, the cost is a great concern for us, which is why we are advocating for the promotion of Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) in Gombe”.
He told Daily Sun in an interview in Gombe that despite the huge investment the state government has made the issue is still alarming and growing by the day in the state.
A look at Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey (NDGS) 2018 showed that the nutrition situation in the state was 1.3 percent for SAM, 44.6 percent for stunting while the rate for underweight children is 26.9 percent and children receiving Vitamin A is 58.5 percent. The SAM rate is said to be above the 1.0 percent national average.
According to Alhassan, this was more reason why the state government should intensify effort towards preventive measures. He said: “I think the solution to this issue is for the government to focus more on the preventive measures. If we can focus and invest more on the preventive side I believe the result will be enormous for the state and in turn reduce the cost of treatment”.
He added saying: “We have embarked on massive sensitization on how to compound nutritious food from locally sourced commodities. Because I think if not for lack of awareness, how can an agrarian state like Gombe where most citizens are farmers and are cultivating beans, soya beans, wheat, millet and all sorts of leaves and are suffering from malnutrition”.
Alhassan explained that the preventive measure consists of sensitization to teach people how to compound nutritious food and how to separate feeding of zero to 2 years old baby and 2 years to 5 years child. He said: “Exclusive breastfeeding is one another big and sure way of preventing malnutrition, ensure child spacing and reducing maternal mortality, therefore, it needs to be emphasized”.
However, the Gombe state commissioner for health Dr. Ahmed Gana assured that the government was working to revitalize the health sector to ensure health for all. Dr. Gana stated this at a press briefing shortly after a meeting of the state executive council on Tuesday in Gombe.
He said the government has made a provision for nutrition programs in the proposed 2021 budget which was approved by the council for transmission to the state house of assembly. “We a good allocation for nutrition which will be executed under the Accelerated Nutrition Result in Nigeria (ANRiN) project which is being implemented in the state.