Abdulrazaq Mungadi, Gombe
Severe malnutrition is currently on rampage in Gombe State. Here, like in most parts of the country ravaged by poverty, ignorance, insufficient healthcare education, decline in healthcare budget, the red lines are everywhere. Catastrophe is only waiting to happen.
Evidence of the impending doom in the state is manifesting in the hungry eyes of hundreds of severely malnourished children. They now are at risk of dying following the increasingly non- availability of the Ready-To-Use-Therapeutic-Food (RUTF), in the various Community-based Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) centres in the state.
The non-availability of the highly proteinous food is traceable to funding between the donor agency, United Nations International Emergency Children Fund (UNICEF) and the counterpart funds providers. A visit to the centres reveals a painful picture. Sick and unwell, the children hang weightlessly on the shoulders of their mothers, sometimes strapped with lean fabrics and sometimes held with the quivering hands of their parents.
When they managed to walk, they pace unsteadily around the premises of the CMAM facilities, looking emaciated and weak, looking onto a world that seems to care less about their misfortune. Fatsuma Mohammed, mother of 17-year-old Ahmadu, is an example of this hopelessness. She had visited the clinic for routine immunization for her boy, but was referred to the CMAM centre.
With a weight of 5.2kg, health experts told her that her boy was already in the red zone and was in need of urgent attention. But getting the life saving food has not been that easy for her. She noted that since April 2019, she has been coming from Kurba in Yamaltu Deba Local Government Area to Gombe, the state capital.
She regretted that her ignorance was responsible for the current status of things, pointing out that she has no knowledge of the nature of her son’s sickness and how to go about it when she first noticed that he was losing weight. She has been treating her child in the traditional way until she visited the immunization centre, where she was eventually referred to the centre.
Fatsuma Babangida is the mother of Fatima, another severely malnourished child. She expressed ignorance about exclusive breastfeeding, declaring that they were not informed or taught about it during their antenatal. She added right from birth, they had introduced their eight-month-old baby to whatever the family eats at home or could afford.
Some four or five months ago, speculations about the intended suspension of the supply of the highly essential therapeutic food started making round, a situation that sparked off anxiety in the state.
The Nutrition Officer, Gombe Local Government, Mallam Mohammed Bawa, admitted that they used to receive an average of 250 and 300 cases every month. He disclosed that in between the period of the stoppage until Friday, July 19, 2019, when they had a fresh supply of the RUTF, things were actually very bad.
“We took delivery of just stock of 500hundred cartoons of the RUTF on Monday, July 22, 2019,” Muhammad said with renewed optimism that the worst is over. He expressed fear that this stock may be the last supply as the donor body, UNICEF, has indicated its unwillingness to continue with the supply. He said government must act now as the stock may only last for two months, considering the high patronage for the food.
A stakeholder, Malam Alhassan Yahya, said cases of acute malnutrition have only but doubled in the recent times. He appealed to all stakeholders in the provision of the therapeutic food to redouble their efforts. He called on government to revisit the issue of acute malnutrition.
Meanwhile, Governor Muhammadu Inuwa Yaya has restated his commitment to the provision of healthcare to the people. He disclosed at the disbursement of N118.9 million to 36 health care facilities in Akko and Billiri local governments that he would establish the centre in each of the 114 wards of the state:
“Providing health institutions closer to the less privilege is the way of bringing lasting solutions to the issue of maternal and child health. Money is being disbursed under the Nigeria and State Health Investment Project (NSHIP), a World Bank funded project, aimed at improving maternal and child healthcare.
“The money was for the purchase of essential drugs and improvement of critical infrastructure, the governor said while adding that that the money would be disbursed every quarter based on performance of each of the facilities.”