Saturday, 22 December 2012

Malnutrition: Nigeria: Great Concern, Little Action


Photo: Florian Lems/MSF-AUSTRIA
18 Years Old Ashta Mohamet and her daughter during a consultation by MSF nurse Jean Blaise Djedouboum at MSF's Ambulant Therapeutic Feeding Center (ATFC) in Koudiguine. Since April MSF runs a feeding programme in 11 health centers in Biltine distriMalnutrition occurs whenever a child is not getting enough food or eating balanced diets. The consequences of malnutrition can be dire, as the United Nations Standing Committee on Nutrition asserts that malnutrition is the largest contributor to non-communicable diseases in the world. The physiological manifestation of malnutrition at an early age can induce reduced physical and mental development during childhood.
The fifth report on World Nutrition Situation states that stunting affects 147 million pre-school children in developing countries, while Nigeria is believed to be home to 10 million of such children.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), domesticated in Nigeria since October 2003, states that access to good nutrition is a fundamental right, particularly for children under five years.
However, imagining malnutrition is one thing, but beholding a malnourished child is another. Anyone who has visited any of the 216 Community-Based Management of Acute Malnutrition, (CMAM), sites set up by UNICEF in the seven Sahelian States -- Gombe, Jigawa, Borno and Yobe, Adamawa, Bauchi and Kano -- may not forget in a hurry, the sight of the unfortunate Nigerian children affected by Severe Acute Malnutrition, SAM.
CMAM is a community-based approach in treating children with severe acute malnutrition. In the sites, children admitted with SAM are given specialised feeding and therapeutic care to help rehabilitate them. The problem remains a "silent" one.
Little or nothing is being done to tackle it even at almost epidemic level in the country despite UNICEF's alert in 2011 that over one million children will suffer severe acute malnutrition in 2012 in the eight countries in the Sahel region including Northern Nigeria. Without any intervention, SAM has up to 60 percent mortality risk.

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