By Okereke Wilson Ogbonnaya
Ebonyi State Ministry of Health through its great number of trained nutrition officers has successfully rescued no fewer than 800 children selected across various communities who were before the intervention battling malnutrition.
It was gathered that a certain Master Kelechi Ede, 59 months old boy and one of the children facing Severe Acute Malnutrition had bounced back to life following the effort of the officers working at Maternal and Child Health ((MCH), Onueke Health Center in Ezza South LGA who treated him with a substance known as Therapeutic foods.
In line with his folder, it was established that before 23rd March 2020, the life threatening form of under nutrition had made the child so skinny and stunted that he could only weight 9.0 kilogramme and his upper arm circumference measured 8 centimeters making his total body measurement less than the weight of a normal growing 12 months old child.
Before the dramatic change, the officers were reviewing Master Kelechi on weekly basis and placed him on steady provision of the clinically approved food meant for treatment of such problem until six weeks later, around 7th May 2020 when his body had almost doubled (16.0 kilogramme) and arm circumference increased from 8.0 to 14.5 centimeters.
On the strength of this information, the nutrition sector of the ministry affirms that Master Kelechi represents over 800 children whose lives had been saved whereas there are numerous numbers in a similar condition within the state.
In the same vein, the report from National Nutrition Health Survey (NNHS) 2018 made available to Citizens’ Advocate stated that, if nothing is done in the emergency, no fewer than 20,000 children between the ages of 6-59 months are liable to die yearly of malnutrition in Ebonyi State.
The Nutrition Officer, Ebonyi State Ministry of Health, Mr. Cyprain Ogbonna when approached by our reporter on Thursday 28th May 2020 over the information disclosed that the impending nutrition challenge prompted the action of Federal Ministry of Health in collaboration with United Nations International Children’s Education Fund (UNICEF) through which treatment center were established across the three geo-political zones.
“It is based on this report that Federal government came in through an establishment known as Community Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) so that the danger can be averted”, he said.
He said that the centers which comprise MCH Azuiyiokwu, MCH Onueke and Amaechara MCH, Afikpo under Ebonyi North, Central and South political zones respectively are currently treating over 800 malnourished children with therapeutic food while the trained health workers are still in steady harvest of more children from the communities.
The Nutritionist further described malnutrition as lack of adequate nourishment that makes either adult or children skinny and stunted, adding that in its most severe form, such cases are difficult to treat in the hospital and hence the government thereby trained many health workers who were equipped with the knowledge and skills on how to identify and care for the affected children before it would become too late.
He attributed one of the causes of malnutrition to parents’ inability to breastfeed their children appropriately and inappropriate complementary feeding believed to be characterized with unhygienic practices and tantamount to less nutrient intake.
“Child illnesses do result to poor appetite or increased demand of nutrients, in some cases if needs are not met, the situation can equally contribute to malnutrition.”
“Nutrition is a technical area that one needs to be careful about but it is quite unfortunate that many do not breastfeed their children without knowing that the first milk known as colostrum serves as antibiotics to newborn babies and even suckling eases off placenta after delivery.”
He added that in a situation where breast milk could not flow after giving birth, that mothers should allow their babies to continue suckling as such action within 30 minutes could stimulate oxytocin in the women that would cause flow of milk.
We noted that Master Kelechi and other children already on treatment for Severe Acute Malnutrition across the three centers would continue till full recovery is noticed and Ministry of Health had provided treatment for only 2,000 children against the predicted number.
To enable the nutrition sector, Ebonyi State Ministry of Health, achieve its desired result by boosting both preventive and curative measures, Mr. Ogbonna called for assistance and partnership from everyone.
Permanent Secretary, State Ministry of Health, Dr Chris Achi told us that the high rate of malnutrition cases in the state was a result of cumulative effect of criminal marginalization which the people were facing before 1st October 1996 when the state was created but disagreed on prediction of NNHS claiming that 20,000 children would die annually.”
“I am not surprised that Ebonyi State recorded the highest number of malnourished children according to the last survey but notwithstanding, I disagree on the figure, if anyone tells you that 20,000 Ebonyi children will die annually of malnutrition, tell the person that Dr Achi said No.”
“We have identified our problem and the government has also embarked on the measures to remedy the situation“, he said.
He added that the harvested malnourished children were placed on food supplements known as micro feed in the clinics designated for such cases and advised that mothers should always adhere to the directive on exclusive breastfeeding so that the problem could be reduced.
According to Permanent Secretary, a large number of mothers had been educated in the health facilities on adequate food preparation and combination that would give the desired nutrients needed for the good health of every child.
“The situation is not death sentence, it is treatable, we have already provided the harvested children across the communities with food supplement and also created awareness for people to know that malnourished children can be care for” he said.
Following the fact that learned woman knows what to about wellbeing of her child, he canvassed for female education and economic empowerment to enable them take care of themselves and their children.
Dr Achi further called on stakeholders to partner with the government on the fight against malnutrition so that the affected children within their localities could be help.