FG, UNICEF treat one million malnourished kids, save .2m lives

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Determined to reduce child deaths in the country, the Federal Government and the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) yesterday announced they have reached more than a million Nigerian children with a highly successful and cost-effective treatment for acute malnourishment, and saving over 200,000 lives in the past six years.

The Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) and UNICEF, in a joint statement yesterday signed by the Chief of Communications, Doune Porter, said a scheme, Community-based Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM), was piloted in Gombe and Kebbi states in 2009 and has now been introduced in 11 northern states where malnutrition poses the greatest threat.

According to the statement, CMAM treats acutely malnourished children from six months to five years old on an out-patient basis, and more than 830,000 children have been cured in the programme with the cure rate currently standing at 85 per cent. “Of the remaining children, about two per cent do not respond to treatment and are referred to hospitals; the current mortality rate is just one per cent, while the other children have defaulted from the programme,” the statement noted. UNICEF Nigeria Representative, Jean Gough, said: “We must scale-up CMAM in Nigeria.

It is a proven high-impact intervention that is saving lives and helping Nigerian children reach their full potential through a good start in life.

We need greater investment in Nigeria’s future by investing in good nutrition.” Latest figures from UNICEF indicate that there are approximately 1.7 million acutely malnourished children under five in Nigeria – accounting for a tenth of the global total. “Nearly a thousand Nigerian children die of malnutrition-related causes every day – a total of 361,000 each year.

Acute malnutrition also leads to stunting of children causing life-long physical limitations and can reduce intellectual capacity.”

Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Health, Linus Awute, said: “The government of Nigeria is committed to reaching more children with CMAM. We cannot accept that Nigerian children continue to die of malnutrition and that our potential future leaders should be diminished by its effects.

The joint statement noted: “CMAM is carried out during weekly appointments over approximately eight weeks at primary health care centres.

It includes education of parents and caregivers on nutrition, the importance of continuing breast-feeding and the role of hand-washing and hygiene.

The nutrition status of the children is assessed during the CMAM sessions and children are given a health screening; if necessary, they are also treated for other illnesses. Children are given highly nutritious Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) during the sessions and mothers and caregivers are provided with supplies of RUTF to feed the child at home.

The cost for CMAM is just $160 for each child treated, including $76 for the RUTF; the remaining $84 covers all other costs, including staff time and training, transport and storage of supplies, and basic medicines.

UNICEF and the government of Nigeria are scaling up the CMAM response and UNICEF is advocating for increased investment in CMAM from both the government of Nigeria and external donors.”



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