Nourishing Nigeria’s future generations
When Hajara’s three-year-old baby Jamila became ill, her first port of call was a chemist where she was given some tablets, but she didn’t get better.
When her situation deteriorated, Hajara brought her baby to a government-run health centre supported by Save the Children, where her baby was diagnosed of marasmus, a severe form of malnutrition that causes muscle wasting.
According to Hajara, “she was becoming thin, that was her problem. Nothing else was disturbing her but she was getting thinner.
“It worried me because she was losing so much weight, I could even count her bones. When I hold her, her weight isn’t up to that of her little baby brother.”
Jamila is lucky to have received treatment at the health centre, however many others aren’t so lucky.
In Nigeria, over 40% of children under the age of five suffer from chronic malnutrition – a condition which increases children’s exposure to infections, susceptibility to illnesses and in extreme cases, can cause death.
Also, one million children under-five die every year in Nigeria, 53% of them due to causes attributed to malnutrition.
This makes Nigeria one of the six countries that accounts for half of all child deaths from malnutrition worldwide.
What we’re doing
Little Jamila is one of many children in Nigeria whose lives have been saved by Save the Children through its flagship community-based management of acute malnutrition (CMAM) programme.
Since September 2010, with support from the European Commission Humanitarian Office and in collaboration with Katsina State Ministry of Health and local partners, Save the Children has treated over thirty thousand children for severe acute malnutrition across four local government areas, and we plan to do more.
As part of a six-year programme, Working to Improve Nutrition in Northern Nigeria (WINNN), funded by the UK’s Department for International Development, Save the Children, UNICEF and Action Against Hunger (ACF), is working to reduce child malnutrition in five northern states: Ebbi, Katsina, Jigawa, Yobe and Zamfara.
WINNN’s objective of reducing malnutrition by reaching about six million children is no doubt ambitious, however, if the problem of malnutrition is to be properly addressed in Nigeria, there are several steps that government at all levels need to take.
These include training and deployment of more nutrition experts to deliver quality services throughout the country.
Government should also take urgent steps to update the National Policy on Food and Nutrition and set realistic targets for the reduction of chronic and acute child malnutrition.
In addition, government should implement a combination of effective social protection, food fortification, support and education for mothers, as well as encouraging the growth of the agricultural sector to improve food security.