There are growing concerns in Bauchi State as more children suffer Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM).
North East Trust reports that this is coming as centres known as CMAM centres are experiencing shortage of packaged nutritious formula known as RUTF.
The shortage is not unconnected with funding withdrawal by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and other partners which left a huge gap.
During a recent advocacy visit by journalists advocating for child and mothers health and increased supply of funds to finance MNP in Bauchi state, the state Nutrition Officer was reported to have disclosed that, Severe Acute Malnutrition is becoming alarming in the state.
According to the n officer, between January to May 2019, a total of 12,304 children under five years were registered for Severe Acute Malnutrition at various OPT centers across the state,
According to the data, out of the number 9,219 children recovered after treatment, 519 defaulted, 200 are yet to fully recover while 59 died.
These figures sound alarming when one looked at the current situation of declining funding and rising poverty among the rural populace.
A 2017 UNICEF report has shown that, there are an estimated 2.5 million under five Nigerian children suffering from Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) every year, with nearly 420,000 of them dying annually.
According to a 2018 SMART Survey the largest percentage of SAM burden is concentrated in the North East.
According to the report North East has 8.7 percent prevalence, North-West 8.3 percent, South-West 6.8 percent, South-East 5.6 percent, while the South-South has 6.7 and the North-Central is the least with 4.9 percent.
These and other reasons was what led to the worries expressed by stakeholders over the sustainability of the intervention for the prevention of SAM affecting children in the state and in other parts of Nigeria.
A similar concern was raised recently at an advocacy training held in Bauchi.
The training was organised by International Society of Media in Public Health (ISMPH) in conjunction with Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Network for Health Equity and Development (NHED) and Aisha Buhari Foundation (ABF) to bring to the fore the challenges being posed by SAM in children.
An official of International Society of Media in Public Health (ISMPH), Mr. Solomon Dogo, said that there is the need to highlight the SAM epidemic in Nigeria and secure the commitment of policy makers to provide more funds through budget lines as donors withdraw funding.
Dogo, who represented the Executive Director of ISMPH, Moji Makanjuola, said the media must play a key role as a stakeholder to influence policy change by holding policy makers accountable to support SAM prevention and treatment.
Representative of Aisha Buhari Foundation (ABF), Haruna Suleman called on the participants to contribute in the fight against SAM through sustained reportage of nutritional issues as well as advocacy for prompt release of budgetary allocation on health related activities.
The stakeholders, therefore, called on government at all levels to commit more funds to support the fight against malnutrition in the country through inclusion in their health and other sectors budget lines.
During a field visit by the participants to a CMAM centre in Kirfi local government area, the health officials at the centre painted a grim picture of the situation as the centre also faces intermittent shortage of Ready to Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) and other essentials including manpower which is aggravating the situation.
Shortage RUTF in CMAM centres is becoming the major challenge as children don’t have a continuous supply as centres run out of stock.
Speaking on the challenges facing the centre, the official in charge of the centre, Babani Mohammed said that, the centre has ran out of stock for over three weeks.
According to him, although fresh cases are declining, the centre has recorded 865 cases but 407 have been successfully treated and discharged.
He further disclosed that, 17 patients defaulted, two severe cases were transferred to stabilisation centre while two deaths were recorded within the period.
He, however, expressed fears that, there may be an increase of relapse among the children being treated because the centre had been out of stock for four weeks.
Some of the Nursing mothers, whose children are being treated for SAM, are equally worried as their children failed to get the treatment commodities for some weeks.
They disclosed that, they have now resorted to the use of local food to feed the children as advised by the health workers.
Zubaida Musa whose child, Ummulkhairi Musa, is being treated at the centre said that she has been receiving treatment at the centre for seven months and had started recovering.
Mrs Musa, who admitted that, she doesn’t have the means to buy the local materials to prepare a nutritious meal for the daughter, lamented the lack of supply to the centre to cater for their children.
A foster mother to a nine-month-old orphan, Ibrahim Sanusi who is being treated at the centre said that, the boy’s progress is being retarded due to the period being spent without getting RUTF and other micronutrients.
The foster mother, Zubaida Mohammed said that, the boy is being treated at the centre for six months and had been doing well since his mother’s death.
A Development Consultant with International Society of Media in Public Health (ISMPH) Mr Edosa Oviawe advised that more has to be done by the media, CSOs and other stakeholders to call for improved service delivery at the CMAM centres.
He added that community mobilisation strategies must be developed and sustained in order to have a strong local involvement with stakeholders at the grassroots to make the campaign more effective.
On his part, the Coordinator Network of Reproductive Health Journalists of Nigeria, (NRHJN) in Bauchi state, Mrs Elizabeth Kah, said that media, health workers, traditional and religious leaders need to be involved in raising awareness on SAM cases.
She said that, the measures would help improve and reduce challenges like stock outs of Ready-to-use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) at CMAM centers.