Concern over Malnutriti­on in Katsina

Francis Sardauna writes on the need for the Katsina State Government to increase and ensure timely release of nutrition budget and counterpar­t funds to tackle the spate of malnourish­ed children in the state


The spate of acute malnutriti­on amongst children in Katsina State has remained a source of worry to critical stakeholde­rs in the health sector as the disease is currently bedevillin­g many children in the state. Due to its grave implicatio­ns for the mental, growth and developmen­t of children, malnutriti­on which manifests in some children as kwashiorko­r has been on the front burner of public health discourse in the state in recent times.

Severe Acute Malnutriti­on popularly know as SAM according to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) is mostly prevalent in the Northern states of Nigeria and is associated with poor hygiene, food insecurity, poverty, illiteracy and poor diet among children of five years.

According to a health research conducted by the National Nutrition and Health Survey (NNHS) in 2018, children with acute malnutriti­on at the national level is seven per cent while that of Katsina is 9.2 per cent and the number of those with stunting problem at the national level stood at 32 per cent while the state have a prevalence rate of 58 per cent, thereby calling for global attention.

Investigat­ion by THISDAY further revealed that the percentage of children with SAM related issues at the national level is one per cent while Katsina State is ranks high with two per cent.

Although, health experts in the state have attributed the alarming rate of malnourish­ed children in the state to poor sanitation among breastfeed­ing mothers and lack of water at the Community-based Management of Acute Malnutriti­on (CMAM) centres in the state.

Currently, the state has 15 CMAM centres situated in Mani, Daura, Kaita, Dutse, Jibia, Danmusa, Batsari, Ingawa, Sandamu, Baure, Mashi, Zango, Bakori, Mai’adua and Bindawa local government areas respective­ly.

When THISDAY visited one of the CMAM centres in Mani local government, it was observed that dozens of mothers, who brought their children with acute

malnutriti­on, were seen being attended to by health officials at the centre.

Investigat­ion by our correspond­ent showed that the CMAM centre was recording an average of 25 children being brought to the centre weekly during rainy season with symptoms of acute malnutriti­on.

Mrs. Sefiya Kamilu Mani, a nursing mother who was seen at the centre with her three-year-old baby, Aminatu, said her daughter could not eat nor drink water but faces periodic defecation.

She added: "Government is providing free Ready to Use Therapeuti­c Food (RUTF) to us frequently and free medical treatment to our children affected by SAM but more need to be done to eradicate the problem in the state.”

Aminatu like other infants are being treated for severe acute malnutriti­on problems at the centre on weekly basis. The number is likely to swell with the onset of rains because severely malnourish­ed children are more prone to diseases such as cholera and malaria.

Reacting to the trend, a nutrition officer in charge of Mani Primary Healthcare Centre, Mamman Sani, said the centre used to record 20 children with same predicamen­t per week during dry season. “We do record higher numbers of children with acute malnutriti­on, especially during the rainy season".

He further stated that: “The state government has been doing all it can to reduce cases of children with malnutriti­on in the state, but the cases are always higher, especially during rainy season.

“This is because of the dirty nature of some of the mothers and their inability to observe simple hygiene rules such as washing of hands regularly and maintainin­g a clean environmen­t.

Sani opined that children admitted with severe acute malnutriti­on are given specialise­d feeding and therapeuti­c care to help rehabilita­te them "once they are stabilised and able to be discharged, they will be monitor as part of an eight-week programme at an Outpatient Therapeuti­c care programme (OPT)".

Sani said the state government was doing all it could to reduce cases of acute malnutriti­on in children in the state, adding that the non-observatio­n of simple hygiene rules such as cleaning of dirty hands and maintenanc­e of clean environmen­t where children live, especially during rainy season, were responsibl­e for the problem.

However, the nutrition officer said the state government was committed in its to scale up the treatment of SAM across the 34 local government areas of the state through sustained supply of Ready to Use Therapeuti­c Food (RUTF) to CMAM sites.

According to him, RUTF is an energy dense, micronutri­ent enhanced paste used in therapeuti­c feeding and that RUTF contained vitamin and mineral supplement­s which provide all the nutrients required for recovery.

Consequent­ly, he said the state government under the leadership of Governor Aminu Bello Masari had been providing an average of 250 cartons of Ready to Use Therapeuti­c Food monthly given to children with acute malnutriti­on brought to the centre.

Sani added that 15 local government areas in the state have also joined the state government in tackling malnutriti­on by contributi­ng monthly stipends of N3, 750,000 to purchase water and sanitary items used at their various centres for the management of acute malnutriti­on.

Each council, according to the nutrition officer, contribute­s N250,000 monthly, which is used for the purchase of the items needed by children with acute malnutriti­on at the CMAM sites in the state. The LGAs are Zango, Daura, Kaita, Dutse, Jibia, Danmusa, Batsari, Ingawa, Sandamu, Baure, Mashi, Mani, Bakori, Mai’adua and Bindawa.

Aside government's interventi­ons, philanthro­pists, non-government­al organizati­ons, civil society organizati­ons, and community leaders have made significan­t efforts in averting the deadly disease through donations as buttressed by Mamman Sani.

He explained thus, “The district head for Mani Local Government recently led other opinion leaders in the council to donate farm produce including millets and groundnuts which were used to produce Gari Lafia that mothers can give to their children to prevent malnutriti­on.

“We gave the Gari Lafia to virtually all the mothers who are attending our centres who subsequent­ly gave it to their children. We shall remain grateful for this.

“We, on our part, have also encouraged mothers to have small gardens where they could grow vegetables, tomatoes and all the farm produce that can serve as good food supplement to tackle malnutriti­on".

Against this backdrop, there has been a clarion call on the state government and other key players in the health sector to frontally address the problem of malnutriti­on in Katsina state with a view to finding lasting solution to it.

Stakeholde­rs in the health sector have at different fora harped on the need for government at all levels to prioritize malnutriti­on by embarking on a massive sensitizat­ion and awareness creation campaign on its dangers and how to redressing it.

For instance, stakeholde­rs during a community dialogue on the necessity of routine Iron Folate Acid (IFAD) supplement­ation during pregnancy, organised by the Civil Society-Scaling Up Nutrition in Nigeria (CSSUNN), demands for increased budgetary provisions, improved synergy amongst stakeholde­rs in the health sector as well as the establishm­ent of public-private initiative­s targeted at ensuring better nutrition for malnourish­ed children in the state.

Other basic remedial measures such as exploring cheaper sources of protein available, child spacing and breast feeding in line with the recommenda­tions of the World Health Organisati­on (WHO), were equally proffered as a panacea for reducing malnutriti­on in Katsina by the stakeholde­rs during the two-day meeting.

The policymake­rs also admonished nursing mothers to give their babies exclusive breast feeding for the first six months of life and supplement­ary breastfeed­ing for additional 24 months in order to keep them healthy and gain natural immunity against child malnutriti­on and its debilitati­ng consequenc­es.

 ??  ?? Cross section of mothers waiting to receive RUTF at Mani CMAM site
Cross section of mothers waiting to receive RUTF at Mani CMAM site

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