Tackling Malnutrition

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Ugo Aliogo examines the contribution of the International Non-Governmental Organisations in tackling malnutrition

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in a report noted that the food security situation confronting north-east has deteriorated.

The report explained that findings from the October 2019 post-harvest Cadre Harmonise (CH) Analysis indicated that 2.95 million people are food insecure across Borno, Adamawa and Yobe States. The report affirmed that the above figure marks a 72 percent increase compared to findings of the CH analysis during the same period in October 2018 (1.7m).

It further stated that those numbers were expected to increase to 3.84 million this year, in the absence of sustained humanitarian assistance.
It stated: “The marked deterioration in the food security situation is linked to the upsurge in insecurity as evident in renewed attacks by non-state armed groups which have led to a new wave of displacements, limited access to farming and grazing land essential for livelihood opportunities. This situation has stretched communal resources due to increased dependency from Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and returnees.

“Most Local Government Areas with conspicuous levels of deterioration in the food security situation have been captured in partners’ planning and response strategy for prioritisation. Sector partners will maintain ongoing assistance as planned with close monitoring of the food security situation.

“As of October 2019, around 2.2 million people have received food security assistance: Of these, 37 per cent received food assistance and the remainder agriculture and livelihood assistance. The government of Nigeria has continued to conduct food distribution, including cereals and condiments, in select camps and host communities across the BAY States.

“In October, partners started the distribution of locally-produced fuel-efficient stoves to 2,000 households in Gwoza LGA of Borno State. The cooking stoves use less firewood than normal stoves which help reduce the time it takes to search for firewood. In addition, a total of 1,000 households (HH) have received micro-gardening inputs (vegetable seeds and gardening tools) in Monguno (600HHs) and Dikwa (400HHs) LGAs of Borno State.”

Some International Non-Governmental Organisations (INGOs) have been at the forefront of eradicating malnutrition in Nigeria especially World Food Programme (WFP), PLAN Nigeria and others.

As part of its response in tackling malnutrition, the World Food Programme (WFP) provides young children and pregnant and lactating women (PLW) with specialised nutritious food or cash-based transfers to PLW.

Speaking to THISDAY, the National Communications Officer, WFP Nigeria, Dr. Kelechi Onyemaobi, said in February, WFP assisted almost 202,000 nutritionally vulnerable children and women with specialised nutritious foods and cash-based transfers.

“Some 114,000 children 6 – 23 months; 4,000 children 24 -59 months with MAM and some 3,000 children 6 -59 months received Super Cereal Plus; and 81,000 pregnant and lactating women were assisted with either specialised nutritious foods (Super Cereal) and vegetable oil or cash-based transfers to enable them buy nutritious foods such as eggs, fish, beans and vegetables to supplement their diets,” he stated.

He further explained that in 2019, WFP complemented food assistance with malnutrition prevention and treatment activities through blanket supplementary feeding for 133,329 children 6–23 months, 7,907 children 6–59 months, “with moderate acute malnutrition, and 120,972 pregnant and lactating women in areas with acute malnutrition over 10 percent and chronic malnutrition above 30 percent.”

He added that super cereal was provided to women and super cereal plus to children as specialised nutritious foods.
Onyemaobi remarked that WFP nutritional assistance improved nutrient intake, strengthened dietary diversity, and emphasised optimal nutrition practices, especially among young children, women of reproductive age, adolescent girls, and other nutritionally at-risk groups.

He affirmed that WFP has also delivered nutrition education, social and behaviour change communication (SBCC), and training on enhancing nutritional cooking and feeding, hygiene and health care, and home food fortification practices, “through SBCC, WFP reached over 107,000 beneficiaries with messages on optimal breastfeeding and feeding practices.”

WFP Response to Malnutrition
The National Communication Officer, said in collaboration with the Yobe State Primary Health Care Management Board, WFP implemented small-scale health facility-based targeted supplementary feeding for treatment of children 6–59 months with moderate acute malnutrition (MAM).
He hinted that in partnership with UNICEF, WFP complemented the management of children with severe acute malnutrition under the community-based management of acute malnutrition approach.

According to Onyemaobi, “Participating health centres were required to meet minimum SPHERE standards for management of MAM. The rate for MAM treatment recovery in these centres was 97.62 percent, far above the target value of 75 percent, while MAM treatment mortality (0.04 percent), non-response (0.28 percent) and default rates (2.06) were well below recommended ceilings. For each of these indicators, there was no significant difference between girls and boys.

“To enhance programme outcomes WFP provided training sessions for health centre staff and mothers and ensured that mothers received locally available foods containing the required nutrients for their children. Training of community nutrition mobilisers was conducted across locations where blanket supplementary feeding was implemented to promote age-appropriate infant and young child feeding (IYCF), including good hygiene and childcare practices.

“The results demonstrated that well-trained women from the communities were capable to support active case finding and IYCF education. Men targeted through father-to-father peer support groups were found to provide important community support for the adoption of better nutrition-related behaviours.

“Additionally, WFP continued to support the multi-sectoral delivery of health and nutrition interventions in Borno State, targeting the 1,000-day window of opportunity from conception to a child’s second birthday through improved quality and increased coverage of basic nutrition services and reductions in household food insecurity. WFP delivered these activities in close coordination with UNICEF and the Borno State Primary Health Care Development Agency.

“WFP supported pregnant and lactating women and caregivers of children under 2 with cash transfers of NGN 5,000 conditioned on participation in UNICEF-supported maternal, new-born and child health services, and maternal support groups. These cash transfers enabled mothers and caregivers to enrich daily diets through the purchase of eggs, milk, fruits, vegetables, meat and other nutritious foods for themselves and their children.

“Cash transfers also supported women’s income generating activities by helping to create new businesses or strengthen existing ones such as rice milling, beekeeping, petty trade and tailoring; and helped to establish village savings and loans associations that provided opportunities for women’s groups to collectively save income from their businesses and access loans from group savings.”

Also reacting to the issues, the Field Coordinator, Plan International Nigeria, Kamal Ahmed, said as an INGO, it is focused on clinical management of malnutrition cases of children 0-five years in health facilities and IDP camps – outreach treatment sites. He also noted that it prioritises prevention as well through Infant and young child feeding (IYCF) nutrition and health education.

He also hinted that PLAN Nigeria engages in clinical case management in five tertiary hospitals in Borno State, adding that there is a large number of children suffering from severe and acute malnutrition (SAM).

In explaining the causes of malnutrition, Ahmed remarked that one of the causes of malnutrition is lack of access to farmland for people to cultivate food crop to feed themselves and their families.

The Field Coordinator stated that when people don’t have enough food to feed their families, it will lead to starvation and consequently malnutrition.