HealthCore Ltd., producers of The HealthZone television program and this blog in a strategic partnership with the Isa Wali Empowerment Initiative (IWEI), is taking bold steps to tackle the problem of malnutrition in women and children in Northern Nigeria. IWEI is a Kano-based NGO established with the aim of transforming the lives of the most vulnerable groups in the North through access to improved healthcare, education, and economic empowerment programmes.
The two organizations jointly hosted a Mother and Child Health Malnutrition Initiative in Kano on November 8 and 9, 2017 to mark the National Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health (MNCH) Week commemorated November 6 – 10, 2017.
Two primary health care centres in Garun Malam and Rano LGAs in Kano State were the settings for the impactful two-day event made possible by the very generous sponsorship of MRS Holdings, a leading national distributor of petroleum products.
The goals of the two-day event were to:
- Educate women on the impact of inadequate nutrition on pregnancy outcomes and child development
- Highlight the benefits of proper nutrition and teach women to prepare nutritious food from locally sourced ingredients
- Screen children for malnutrition and provide micronutrients and deworming
- Screen pregnant women for pre-eclampsia, diabetes, malaria, and STIs
- Review malaria prevention measures
The Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II, championed the event and commended The HealthZone for its efforts to promote health literacy and drive improved health outcomes. The Primary Health Care Board represented by Dr. Aisha Ahmed, Director of Family Health was present on both days to support the effort. Several community health workers played vital roles in delivering service to the women and children in attendance.
The turnout on both days was overwhelming – more than 750 women and children participated enthusiastically in all the activities. On the second day in Rano LGA, we sadly had to turn women away because we exceeded the facility capacity.
During her welcome address Dr. Toju Chike-Obi Host of The HealthZone television program and editor of The HealthZone Blog said that there is a critical 1,000-day period for every child – from the moment the mother conceives until the child’s second birthday. She added that every year, poor nutrition during this crucial time causes the death or disability of millions of children in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The United Nations has described malnutrition as the silent crisis in Nigeria. An estimated 2.4 million children are malnourished in Northern Nigeria alone, and 30 – 50% of all pregnant women are under-nourished. Under-nourished women give birth to malnourished babies.
Speaking also at the events, Executive Director of IWEI, Mrs. Amina Hanga stated that ignorance and poverty play significant roles in fostering malnutrition in Kano State. Many children from poor families just don’t get enough food. Even when they have food, it’s not the right kind of food that supports healthy growth and development.
Malnourished children have stunted growth and:
- Are short for their age
- Have diminished cognitive and mental ability
- Demonstrate a limited capacity to learn
- Have lower productivity and earning potential as adults
- Have a less robust immune system making them more prone to severe, life-threatening infections.
In a short class for the women, Mallam Yusuf Kura, Nutritionist, discussed the need for healthy nutrition before, during and after pregnancy. Speaking in Hausa, he reviewed local resources for preparing nutritious food for families. Hadja Maryam Nashi, Primary Health Care Coordinator, also teaching in Hausa shared simple, insightful take-home points on malaria prevention with the participants.
Nuture All Foods, makers of Soykunu, a highly nutritious millet-peanut-soya bean cereal, provided a demonstration of how to prepare the food supplement. Using short videos in the Hausa language produced by Medical Aid Films, we taught the women about the proper care of a newborn and warning signs of complications in pregnancy.
We screened more than 500 women for high blood pressure, malaria, and diabetes during the two-day event. Society For Family Health provided counselors to test the women for HIV, give counseling, and also screen for and treat sexually transmitted infections.
We also screened 175 children age 6 months – 59 months for malnutrition and gave Vitamin A and deworming medication. Not surprisingly 15% of children in Garun Malam LGA and 23% of children in Rano LGA – almost 1 in 4 children – were malnourished and will be provided with nutritional supplements and monitored for one year.
Several local and international agencies partnered with The HealthZone and IWEI on the malnutrition initiative by generously donating commodities and services. They include Society for Family Health, Gongoni Foundation, InStrat Global Health Solutions, Nuture All Foods, Vitamin Angels, Medical Aid Films and the Romeo & Zainab Boudib Foundation.