International NGO raises alarm over chronic malnutrition in Northwest Nigeria

By: Emmanuella Ajide

 

Action Against Hunger (AAH) Nigeria, an NGO, on Tuesday raised its concern over prevailing chronic and acute malnutrition in children in the North western zone of the country.

Mr Rangaiya Kanaganathan, Head of Department, Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), of the organisation, who expressed the worry in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), in Abuja, said that there was need for renewed stakeholder commitment to change the trend.

According to him, AAH had been leading the global fight against hunger and malnutrition amongst the most vulnerable population in northern Nigeria since 2010.

He, however, expressed worry over the low awareness about the prevalence of hunger in the north western states.

“Sometimes, the needs in the north west are not really known to everyone; most of the time, concentration is on the northeast.

” But, there is a huge level of malnutrition, a higher level in comparison with the north-east.

“AAH started its project in the north-west in Jigawa, because of the high level of malnutrition there.

“The good example is that although we talked more about COVID -19, but the cholera outbreak in 2021 in these parts killed more persons than COVID-19.

“The information in the media is limited, we have tried to get some funding for the north-west, even the donors really don’t understand what is happening in the north-west’’, he added.

He said emergency needs of people living in internally displaced camps and other communities, were still high, and commended the efforts of the Nigerian government for leading the interventions.

He said that AAH, in partnership with key stakeholders in the states, had intervened on preventing and treating malnutrition patients through its nutrition and health programmes located in all healthcare facilities.

“We have the mobile out-patient treatment programme in the Internally Displaced Persons camps and some hard-to-reach locations.

“In some locations, we give support to the staff, through training on nutrition services and support to combat acute and chronic malnutrition.

“We have community-based mobilisation volunteers and workers who understand the concept of malnutrition and how to prevent it, and offer treatment in health facilities.

“What we do in food security is to target the 1,000-day windows’ opportunity from when the mother gets pregnant until the baby reaches age-two.

“It is a very crucial cycle of a human being, in the cash programme, we target the pregnant woman and the lactating mothers to make sure that they have access to cash and food’’, he said.

Kanaganathan noted that in partnership with World Food Programme, his organisation had distributed locally-sourced materials like rice, millet, maize, corn, reaching no fewer than 3,800 persons in those communities.

“We have trained nursing mothers on ways to produce locally-made foods, known as the “Porridge Mothers’ Project,” where porridge is made using sorghum and other nutrients.

“This is crucial following the insufficiency in supply of ready-to-use therapeutic foods from other development partners.

“AAH has built the capacity of mothers and adolescent-led households in producing these foods to support malnourished children.

“This intervention keys into the 1000 days of the child project in which a mother that is not well-fed may produce children with neonatal deformities, stunted growth, among others”, he added.

He said that AAH had signed an MOU with critical partners on capacity building, in line with the vision of the nutrition and livelihood project.

In the WASH programmes too, the concept of the 1,000 days focused on educating women on the importance of hygiene practices at all times, during and after pregnancy, he added.

He said access to safe water and sanitation facilities at all times was critical for child survival and overall prevention of malnutrition.

“The children and mothers coming to the health facilities have access to potable water, sanitation, and hygiene services.

“We all know that chronic malnutrition can be linked to poor access to WASH. If we have poor WASH services, it can lead to diarrhoea, even if they have good food, there is a chance that they could be malnourished”, he said.

He added that the organisation usually ensured strict adherence to the provision of potable water and that sanitation best practices were followed in IDP camps and in host communities.

This has had a positive impact in ending open defecation practices and diarrheal disease, Kanaganathan added.

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