Segun Awofadeji in Gombe
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), has called on the Gombe State Government to immediately wade into the rising cases of acute malnutrition affecting children in the state.
The Chief Nutrition Officer of UNICEF in Nigeria, Dr. Argan De-Wagt, who alerted the governor on the dangerous trend during a courtesy call recently, said the state government must intensify effort to save the lives of many malnourished children in the state.
The Chief Nutrition Officer who advised the governor to introduce the school feeding programme for children, said it would help as a first time measure in combating the case of acute malnutrition bedeviling the state.
According to him, out of the 36 per cent of children in Nigeria that are affected by malnutrition, Gombe State statistics is about 50 per cent of acute malnutrition which he said, is a very dangerous stage level for the people.
He said, “The indicator in the north is not so good, 10 per cent of children are disadvantaged because breast feeding mothers themselves are not properly nourished. Most critical days are from pregnancy to first one thousand days of a child. If the nutritional stage by this period is not attained, mortality rate becomes very high”.
He noted that the indicators for Gombe State show that it is doing very poorly in the area of exclusive breast feeding for children in the first six months. He explained further that exclusive breast feeding is important because the breast has all the nutrients needed by a child as the intestines of a child is not strong enough for any other substance.
He said, “Most mothers believe that when it is hot, a child needs water but because a child’s intestine is very vulnerable and the lining of water are very tin, it is very easy for bacteria to enter into the child and cause diarrhea. It is worrisome that, only 8 per cent of children in Gombe are exclusively breast fed, it is second poorest exclusive breast feeding state, after Kaduna.”
He said UNICEF is working towards preventing severe malnutrition in Gombe State and advised that children be treated with the therapeutic food which is very effective and specialised for the healthy growth of the children. He said, at the moment, it is imported but that two Nigerian companies are developing the capacity to produce it.
Responding, Gombe State Governor, Alhaji Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo reiterated his government’s commitment to addressing malnutrition in the state. According to him, the state government through its Ministry of Education would ensure that nutrition is included in school curriculum.
The governor who called on other UN agencies to still come in with more support, also appealed to the media to assist in creating awareness on nutrition and other health issues in the community.