Desmond Mgboh, Kano
The atmosphere at Ungogo Primary Health Facility in Ungogo Local Government Area of Kano State was calm on this Monday morning.
The path that leads to its gate was traffic- free with countable number of persons or animals while the trees in the premises were afresh with an undiluted breeze that flowed from the rain that fell the previous night.
Inside the facility, a few staffers held out as many had failed to resume in the wake of the rain. But a few light voices could be heard in the background, voices of inconsolable babies crying in shrilled tones for their mothers’ attention.
This local health facility, besides its other functions, is one of the 13 centres for the Community Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) programs in the state. The objective is to manage cases of malnutrition in the state, including handing out the Ready-to-Use-Therapeutic-Food (RUTF) in cases of severe acute malnutrition.
In those days, multiple hundreds of severely malnourished cases of children and pregnant mothers from different parts of the state such as Bichi, Gezawa were referred to this centre. And very often, they regained their health wit after they had been treated at the centre.
Like many other centres across the state however, the centre has since gone cold in inactivity. All the tales of the enabling the survival malnourished children and pregnant mothers for which, it was celebrated by the rural poor, has been gone with the winds.
Investigation conducted by Daily Sun showed that this centre has been technically shut down in past months and has, therefore, been unable to attract the usual deluge of patients as a result of lack of much need RUTF.
Hajia Hauwa Ismail is deputy officer in charge of the facility. She explained that they usually attend to as many as 400 patients of acute malnutrition in a week. She added that as a result of the food, hundreds of lives, which would have been lost to malnutrition, were saved: “When the patients visit the centre, they come in sick, weak and in malnourished conditions.
“But they are speedily revived within the first two weeks of being placed on the treatment of the RUTF. The RUTF is a wonder drug. Immediately they take it, the children will recover. Just give it to them for the two week.”
However, she revealed that for reasons not clear to her, the programme was suddenly stopped and the supplies of the food was discontinued: “Patients also stopped coming after they had waited in vain for the resumption of the supplies. When the food is available they call us to come to the LGA to collect them and we give them our monthly report, which they collect, but they have been out of stock.”
She expressed worry over the negative impact of the discontinuation of the supplies of these foods, saying that about 10 to 15 children die monthly of acute malnutrition. She maintained that they have been encouraging mothers during anti-natal session to make use of the local alternatives to improve on the quality of their diets even as she appealed to the donors to resume the programme in the state.
The International Institute of Media in Public Health and Civil Society Advocacy Center (CISLAC), said an estimated 2.5 million Nigeria children under the age of five are suffering from severe malnutrition, explaining that the situation is responsible for the death of nearly 42,000 children yearly.
Mrs Moji Makanjuola, its Executive Director and Auwal Ibrahm Musa, Executive Director, Civil Society and Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), said: “Kano State is experiencing a complete stock out of the RUTF emanating from the delay in the release of funding for the procurement of the food. This challenge has continued to exacerbate the increasing rate of death among severally malnourished children.”
They prayed the state government to appropriate and declare a state of emergency on malnutrition, which will accord appropriate priority to the subject as well as avert persistent death of children as result of acute malnutrition.
As for Jigawa State, they said malnutrition and under nutrition is a threat to public health. Citing reports by MICS 2018, they held that the state has one of the worse nutrition indices in Nigeria, with 66 per cent stunting, 13.3 per cent wasting: “While in in 2017, Jigawa State CMAM programs admitted 62,953 with 57201 cases, 170 deaths and 911 defaulters.”
They highlighted the challenge of funding, insufficient CMAM centres and lack of extension workers as well as lack of information and knowledge regarding the use of RUTF and nutrition preventive measures as factors, which undermine the efforts to curb malnutrition in most of the affected Northern states.
They charged the governors in the North to amplify the importance of adequate nutrition status through enhanced education and awareness programmes. They also asked them to sustain the treatment and prevention of the problem through enhanced support for CMAM.
They implored them to “expand the existing CMAM programs to additional prioritise local government areas in various states for adequate coverage and timely intervention.” They also charged the governors to ensure the full implementation of the National Health Act 2014 to promote adequate accessibility and affordable health care for effective delivery of CMAM and other nutrition services
Usman Abubakar Tahir, former Director General, Gundima Health Center, Jigawa State, agreed with the position. He held that while sustained ambition should be directed at the resumption of the supply of the RUTF by UNICEF, efforts should be made to encourage faring of nutritious food as alternative sources of healthy living in the rural communities.
Agriculture is handy in tackling the problem of malnutrition, urging mothers and families to make good use of the nutritional food in their homes to avoid slipping into cases of severe malnutrition.