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Monday, November 19, 2018

One man's meal, 163 children’s death per month - NaijaAgroNet

Arrival of every child in a family is always joyful. REMMY NWEKE in this report postulates that one man’s meal that costs N3.5m of tax-payers money, could actually save 163 children from death monthly, if nation’s resources are prioritized.

Malnutrition @FCT:

Still reminiscing on what one saw at the recent site visit to Kwalu Primary Health Care (PHC) Centre within the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja, with a good number of malnourished children not less than 50 in that centre and considering that, this PHC may not be very far away from where the Federal Government is feeding one man monthly with the sum of N3.5 million, while over 2000 children under 5 die daily as a result of malnutrition, becomes unthinkable.

Frankly, travelling from Lagos to FCT, Abuja, about 11 hours 42 minutes by road and some 756.8 kilometres (km) via Sagamu-Benin Expressway, one would simply not envisage that there are some malnourished children near the seat of power in the most populous black nation, Nigeria.

The N3.5m gab and CMAM:

Recall that the Federal Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, a fortnight ago revealed to the Nigerian media that the whooping sum of N3.5m is used monthly to feed the leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), Ibrahim El-Zakzaky.

So, penultimate Wednesday, November 7, precisely, the Information Minister since inception of the All Progressive Congress (APC)-led Federal Government, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, told media including leading Internet TV, OakTv in a viral video that the government was spending N3.5 million monthly to feed Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, the Shi’ia sect leader who has been in detention since December 2015. The paradox in the above is the revelation of using N3.5m to feed a one-man detainee and just nearby community of Kwali there are some 50 malnourished children and some 2,000 die nationwide daily.

According to the 2017 Community-based Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) sighted by NaijaAgroNet, experts at the UNICEF in collaboration with the Federal Government alluded that it would cost N21,350 only about $61 to cure a child suffering from Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) in the non-emergency states of the country. On the other hand, it will cost N36,750 only, about $105, to cure a child suffering from SAM in emergency states like the North East (NE) geopolitical zone of Nigeria, consisting of Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba, and Yobe.

What is SAM?

Experts at National Institutes of Health defined Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) as extremely low weight-for-height, and estimated to affect between 500,000 and 1,000,000 million children under age five in Nigeria every year, thus contributing to as many as 100,000 deaths per year. They also underlined the causes of malnutrition in Nigeria to include poverty, inadequate food production, inadequate food intake, ignorance and uneven distribution of food, poor food preservation techniques, improper preparation of foods, food restrictions and taboos, and poor sanitation.

Arithmetically, what this entails, according to NaijaAgroNet findings is that at the non-emergency states, N3.5m would be able to feed and obviously cure some 163.93 children monthly at the rate of N21,350, which amounts to N3,499,905.5. And for children suffering from SAM in the six aforementioned emergency states, at least 95.23 children will be saved at the cost of N36,750 with a round up figure of N3,499,702.5 every month. Per-adventure N3.5m is shared among 30 days on average of a month, will indicate N116,666 is spent daily. This figure when matched with N21,350 will save about 5.4 children on daily average.

This figure when juxtaposed with the number of months since Malam Ibrahim El-Zakzaky was arrested and detained by the state in December 2015, following initial clampdown on his members by soldiers despite court ruling to release him; indicates that he has spent 34 months in detention till October 30. When 34 months is multiplied by N3.5m leaves NaijaAgroNet correspondent with N119,000,000 (One Hundred and Nineteen Million Naira).

How to save 3,328 SAM children in North East:

Conversely, dividing N119,000,000 with the cost of N36,750 anticipated to save children suffering from Severe Acute Malnourished (SAM), Nigeria should have saved some 3,238 children in the six emergency states of North East, while the same amount could have saved some 5,573 in some 30 states including FCT that are categories as non-emergency states within the period under review of 34 months.

A communiqué issued from a recent 3-day media training cum field visit from October 29th to November 1st, 2018 in Abuja on the theme “The Journalists’ Role in Ensuring Transparency and Accountability in Allocation and Use of Health/Nutrition Funds in Nigeria” hosted by Civil Society Scaling up Nutrition in Nigeria (CS-SUNN) under the Partnership for Improving Nigeria Nutrition Systems (PINNS) project, decried the daily 145 maternal death as a result of malnutrition, recognising nutrition as multi sectoral issue admonishing all hands to be on deck so as to tackle the menace.

At the training, Mr. Dare Oguntade took on “The Nigerian Malnutrition Situation with Focus on PINNS project”; Communications Officer at CSSUNN, Lilian Ajah-mong, highlighted challenges in nutrition reporting; Project Manager at CSSUNN, Mr. Sunday Okoronkwo harped on ‘Nutrition Funding’ and Akin Jimoh of DevCom, facilitated ‘Communicating Nutrition Stories for Change.’

The communique endorsed by Mr. Salihu Mohammed Alkali and Mrs Priscilla Dennis on behalf of participants, pointed out that the first 1000 days of life from the time of conception to a child’s second birth day is not prioritized yet, adding that governments at all levels, have not been making adequate budgetary allocation, approval, timely release and cash backing.

Wake-up for stakeholders:

They also lamented that where budgets are allocated and released, implementation tend to focus more on the curative measures than preventive, citing an instance that a malnourished child when immunized does not absorb or utilize the immunization. Noting though there is low reportage of nutrition-related issues in Nigeria, experts reportedly attributed 53 per cent of deaths from child killer diseases as directly related to malnutrition.

This, they said, underscored the fact that most mothers at the Primary Health Care (PHC) centres, especially at Kwali, were not practicing Exclusive Breast Feeding (EBF), decrying lack of men involvement and support towards EBF.

They agreed that stakeholders including but not limited to the government, media, CSOs, care givers, donor agencies need to place emphasis on preventive than curative measures, stressing that government and policymakers, for instance, should be held accountable for their commitments on issues bordering on nutrition especially for children and mothers of child-bearing age, while media practitioners were urged to be consistent in their reportage on nutrition and holding government accountable by getting enough information aimed at addressing nutrition issues, in order to place nutrition at the front burner and influence policy decisions thereof for improved nutrition interventions.

Mainstreaming nutrition:

Advocacy for policies to mainstream nutrition into agriculture as well as sensitizing women on the need to exclusively breastfeed their children in the first six (6) months of life, without addition of water was brought to fore, even as mothers were encouraged to continue to breastfeed their children for two years in addition to adequate complementary feeding.

Participants, according to the Mr. Alkali and Mrs. Dennis were encouraged to explore key components of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) so as to bring to the fore requisite solutions to the plights of women, children and other vulnerable groups within the Nigerian society. They insisted that government should scale up and sustain existing interventions on nutrition, while media should intensify campaign towards behavioral change, especially for men to support EBF for a better family life eventually.

Purdah:

Purdah, according to online encyclopedia, Wikipedia, is the practice in certain Muslim and Hindu societies of screening women from men or strangers, especially by means of a curtain and often described as “a state of seclusion or secrecy.”

Hannatu Musa, a mother, says Purdah has not been helpful as they women are kept at home and rely heavily on what their husbands bring home which may not necessarily be nutritional mix and varies at various stages of growth, both for mother and child.

Also, a mother of 10-month girl twins, 20-year-old Habibat Abubakar, told NaijaAgroNet that though married to a driver, she treks from Kwaku PHC before they were referred to Kwali, which is a distance and said she was encouraged to visit the hospital by her community leaders. Her twins, she said were underweight at birth and before they were brought to PHC Kwali. As said by her, she breastfeeds her twins, but grandmother gives water afterwards, within the first 1000 days of life.

From Kwaku to Kwali, she said, is about 1:30 minutes trek to receive medicare, but added that she has been coming to PHC weekly and every medicare is free except when she has to take transport, confirming she attended antenatal too.

For Marawiya Isiaka, a mother of 2-year old baby who did not know her age, but could be below 25, told NaijaAgroNet, that her husband cares less about them and she has been coming to PHC Kwali without requisite attention for over a week. This was also brought to the attention of the chief nutritionist supervising the Kwali PHC and she immediately received medicare. The supervisor argued that her case like any other one beyond the PHC are referred to the General Hospital, but in the case of Mrs Isiaka before the visit could end, she was seen attended to with a smile.

Wrap-up:

As the election year approaches, its crucial for stakeholders to ensure that nutrition becomes a political agenda, to include the prioritization of health related issues based on importance of food security and nutritional health; one highlight also will be ensuring that government votes at least 50 per cent of what they spend on managing crisis like the one associated to the Malam Ibrahim El-Zakzaky’s detention as revealed, some 3,238 children in the emergency states of North East, and some 5,573 in some 30 states including FCT from non-emergency states should have been saved from death in 34 months, with an average vote of N3.5 monthly.

The underlined causes of malnutrition in Nigeria comprising poverty, inadequate food production, inadequate food intake, ignorance and uneven distribution of food, poor food preservation techniques, improper preparation of foods, food restrictions and taboos, and poor sanitation, cannot be wished away.

Still imagine a Nigerian society, if 163 children could be saved from Severe Acute Malnutrition per month in non-emergency states, at the cost of N21,350 per child per month and at least 95.23 children at the cost of N36,750 from emergency states saved respectively, of course, the story will change including reduction drastically in the numbers of children at risk of death daily.

And by reversing this trend of one man's meal costing Nigeria 163 children’s death per month, we should have been positioned to see the importance of quality of life in our children improve significantly, having in mind what Caryn Elaine Johnson alias Whoopi Goldberg, a black literary icon and actress said, “... when our children are happy, then we are better as human beings.”

The time to start thinking in that direction is now.

... Linking agrobiz, sustainable environs, people & technology


Pix: Lai Mohammed flanked by two children's pictures from PHC Kwali, FCT.

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