By MUhammad Zangina kura
The recent approval and final release of N150 million by Jigawa state government as counterpart fund to donor agencies to tackle the menace of child malnutrition has rekindled the hope of saving the lives of over 30,000 children facing the risk of preventable deaths in the state.
According to United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Report, Jigawa state is one of the states of the federation with alarming rate of acute child malnutrition while stunted children stand at over 64 percent.
A recent report from ORIE revealed that over 36,000 children in the state are facing death threat as a result of acute malnutrition and if effective measures are not taken, most of the children will suffer premature and avoidable deaths, while those who survive it will grow stunted with permanent mental and physical disability.
Even though nutrition programs have been carried out in Jigawa state since 2008 with the opening of centers for Community-based Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) where to date over 280,980 children with severe acute malnutrition have been treated, out of which 55,094 children saved from untimely death.
According to UNICEF report the number of children visiting the centers had increased to over 70 percent from 2014 to date. In 2016 alone over 74,630 children were registered and treated at various CMAM centres in the state.
Despite all the mentioned achievements, Jigawa still has high rate of malnourished children standing at 59%.
The CMAM program is currently carried out in 12 local government area out of the 27 in the state, with about 64 centers in which 46 is managed by UNICEF while 18 by WINN through Action Against Hunger (ACF).
It is well known that, the problem is a repercussion of abject poverty and poor family planning, but above all in Jigawa state ignorance on the correct infant and young child feeding by parents is the major contributory factor to the alarming rate of the predicament.
Over N300 million naira was allocated for child nutrition in the state 2017 budget, but the release of the said N150 million did not came on a platter of gold, it took the combined effort of donor agencies and partners like UNICEF, WINN, PERL, civil society organizations. And media to convince the governor on the indispensable need to release the counterpart fund for facilitating the continuation of the program and timely rescue of the affected children.
During the recent “Strategic Session on Health” supported by PERL in which civil societies, media, traditional leaders and government officials were in attendance, there was outcry about the urgent need for the counterpart funding which triggered government to respond to the demand.
The state governor, Alhaji Muhammadu Badaru who is known as “Baba Mai Calculator” due to his principle of financial discipline and spending of public money, was convinced beyond reasonable doubt on the existence of the problem in the state and the need to spend whatever it takes to spare the lives of the state innocent children from death or wasting.
Despite the alarming rate of child malnutrition in Nigeria, particularly the northwestern zone, the intensified efforts under the program Working to Improve Nutrition in Northern Nigeria (WINNN) which is implemented by UNICEF, Action Against Hunger (ACF) and Save the Children International (SCI) in partnership with federal, state, local government and community organization, is very encouraging in tackling the problems threatening the lives of millions of children.
After recent visit to some centers in Katsina and Jigawa states where Infant and Young Child Feeding program is operating, one would notice an inspiration of hope that in a nearest future the crisis of child malnutrition would be history of the past in Nigeria.
Also according to ORIE report, the rate of child malnutrition in jigawa state stand at 59.0 percent and Katsina with 58.5 percent, nevertheless the success story recorded as at December 2016 in tackling the crisis is something of joy.
Presenting the copy of the check during a mid-year review meeting on child nutrition for Jigawa and Plateau states held in Jos, the head of UNICEF field office in Bauchi, Dr Abdullahi Kaikai commended Jigawa state government for the release of the counterpart funding for tackling child nutrition problems in the state.
While commenting on the release of the fund, state nutrition officer Mallam Saidu Umar stated that with the release of the money, UNICEF and other donors would put their resources which will help in saving not less than 18,000 malnourished children in the state.
According to the state nutrition officer there is a plan on the ground which is also included in the 2017 budget for expanding the nutrition program to the remaining 15 local government areas of the state with at least one CMAM centre in each local government.
He said: “In 2016 over 54,000 cartons of RUTF were consumed by children and for the 2017 not less than 48,000 cartons are estimated to be required for the existing centres, while the number required may increase with the scale up of more centres in the remaining 15 local governments”.
He said education and enlightenment campaign for correct pregnant, Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) and behavior change plan will be carried out in all the communities in the state, starting with the training of facilitators and corestake holders to be involved in the project, such as mothers, caregivers Ulamas, traditional leaders, media and civil societies.
The development recorded in the child nutrition in Jigawa state is appreciable but much is needed to be put in place as thousands of children with acute malnutrition are yet to be covered. They have no access to nutrition management services provided by government.
As the N150 million counterpart fund, which is not more than 10 percent of what donor agencies will contribute for saving the lives of over 18,000 out of the 36,000, what is the fate and chances of survival for the other remaining about 18,000 children?
It is important to remind all the principal actors and stakeholders who urged the government for the release of the said money to also start warming up and join hands together to engage the state government to commence preparation for the timely release of the remaining N150 million budgeted for nutrition to ensure uninterrupted supply of RUTF, drugs and other services required for the program.
Only by timely release of the remaining allocated fund will the 18,000 children be adequately covered while the other program designed for tackling the causes of child malnutrition could see the light of the day.
We do hope the issue of child malnutrition will one day became a thing of the past in our society as the problem is preventable.
But to achieve this requires high spirit of humanity, compassion, care, perseverance and political will from government and all other principal actors.
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