The HealthZone Programme, Isa Wali Initiative Take Bold Steps to Combat Malnutrition

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Toju Chike-Obi

HealthCore Ltd., producers of The HealthZone television programmein a strategic partnership with the Isa Wali Empowerment Initiative (IWEI) is taking bold steps to tackle the problem of malnutrition in women and children in Northern Nigeria. IWEI is a Kano-based NGO established with the aim of transforming the lives of the most vulnerable groups in the North through access to improved healthcare, education, and economic empowerment programmes.

The two organisations jointly hosted a Mother and Child Health Malnutrition Initiative in Kano on November 8 and 9, 2017 to mark the National Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health (MNCH) Week commemorated November 6 – 10, 2017. Two Primary Healthcare Centres in Garun Malam and Rano LGAs in Kano State were the settings for the impactful two-day event made possible by the generous sponsorship of MRS Holdings, a leading distributor of petroleum products.

The goals of the two-day event were to educate women on the impact of inadequate nutrition on pregnancy outcomes and child development as well as to highlight the benefits of proper nutrition and how to prepare nutritious food from locally sourced ingredients. The Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II, championed the event and commended The HealthZone for its efforts to promote health literacy and drive improved health outcomes.

The Primary Healthcare Board represented by Dr. Aisha Ahmed, Director of Family Health was present on both days to support the effort. Several community health workers played vital roles in delivering service to the women and children in attendance. The target audience of more than 750 women and children participated enthusiastically in all the activities.

During her welcome address Dr. Toju Chike-Obi Host of The HealthZone television programme said that there is a critical 1,000-day period for every child – from the moment the mother conceives until the child’s second birthday. She added that every year, poor nutrition during this crucial time causes the death or disability of millions of children in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The United Nations has described malnutrition as the silent crisis in Nigeria. An estimated 2.4 million children are malnourished in Northern Nigeria alone, and 30 – 50 per cent of all pregnant women are under-nourished. Under-nourished women give birth to malnourished babies. Speaking also at the event, Executive Director of IWEI, Mrs. Amina Hanga stated that ignorance and poverty play significant roles in fostering malnutrition in Kano State.

Many children from poor families just don’t get enough food. Even when they have food, it’s not the right kind of food that supports healthy growth and development. Malnourished children are often short for their age and have diminished cognitive and mental ability, severely limiting their capacity to learn and future productivity as adults. They also have a less robust immune system making them more prone to severe, life-threatening infections.

In a short class for the women, Mallam Yusuf Kura, Nutritionist, discussed the need for healthy nutrition before, during and after pregnancy. Speaking in Hausa, he reviewed local resources for preparing nutritious food for families. Hadja Maryam Nashi, Primary Healthcare Coordinator, also teaching in Hausa shared simple, insightful take-home points on malaria prevention with the participants.

Nuture All Foods, makers of Soykunu, a highly nutritious millet-peanut-soya bean cereal, provided a demonstration of how to prepare the food supplement. Watching short videos in the Hausa language produced by Medical Aid Films, the women in attendance learned about the proper care of a newborn and warning signs of complications in pregnancy.

More than 500 women were screened for high blood pressure, malaria, and diabetes during the two-day event. Society for Family Health provided counselors to test the women present for HIV, give counseling, screen, and treat for sexually transmitted infections.

175 children age 6 months – 59 months were screened for malnutrition and given the micronutrient Vitamin A and Deworming medication. Children found to be malnourished will be provided with nutritional supplements and monitored for one year.

Several local and international agencies partnered with The HealthZone and IWEI on the malnutrition initiative. They include Society for Family Health, Gongoni Foundation, InStrat Global Health Solutions, Nuture All Foods, Vitamin Angels, Medical Aid Films and the Romeo and Zainab Boudib Foundation.
•Dr. Chike-Obi, host of The HealthZone television programme, writes from Abuja