In Nigeria, combining nutritional support and birth registration under one roof | At a glance: Nigeria | UNICEF

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At a glance: Nigeria

In Nigeria, combining nutritional support and birth registration under one roof

By Samuel Kaalu

Parents seeking treatment for their children’s malnutrition discover the added benefit of birth registration. 

KANO, Nigeria, 21 November 2014 – The waiting hall is crowded at the Magami Basic Health Centre, in the Sumaila Local Government Area of Kano State, northern Nigeria. The clinic is filled with mothers seeking help for their children at the outpatient therapeutic programme (OTP) for severe acute malnutrition. Aisha Ahmadu, 30, mother of six, is there with her 9-month-old twins, Hassan and Hussain.

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© UNICEF Nigeria/2014/Alhaji
Mothers and their children at the Magami Basic Health Centre OTP clinic wait to be attended to.

She looks uneasy as she balances the two restless boys on her lap, while Hajara, her 4-year-old daughter, tugs at her skirt for attention.

When Ms. Ahmadu had twins, the family was happy, but that joy was short-lived when her children took ill. “I thought it was something we could handle, so my husband and I started giving them local herbs, but their condition got worse – they got thinner,” she says.

A woman in her village told her about the clinic for malnourished children. “My neighbor said there was a place they attend to children with similar condition as mine. So as soon as my husband raised the $3 fare for a motorcycle ride to the clinic, I brought my children here,” she says.

Karimatu Isa, 25, at the clinic with her 15-month-old daughter, Sadiya, also tells the story of her child’s recovery from malnutrition.

Ms. Isa lives 17 km from the clinic and has to cross two rivers on her way, but these hurdles are nothing compared to the cure she had hoped for – and her child is now getting.

Birth registration

The two mothers are happy their visits to the clinic calmed their worries about their children’s malnutrition. But they also received another benefit: birth certificates for their children, thanks to the registration desk at the clinic. Before their visit, neither of them had heard about birth registration or knew its importance.

“I’m told the birth certificate is an important document which my child needs now and when she grows up, so I must keep it well,” says Ms. Isa. Her two other children, Saffilahi, 6, and Gali, 4, had not been registered because she and her husband never heard about birth registration.

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© UNICEF Nigeria/2014/Achir
Aisha Ahmadu receives a birth registration certificate from Baba Ishaq Sumaila, births registrar at the Magami Basic Health Centre OTP clinic in northern Nigeria.

Ms. Ahmadu’s twins and her daughter were also registered. “They asked me if my children had birth certificates, but I told them no. They then took me to a desk where the registration was done and the certificates given to me,” she says as she shows the certificates.

What happens here also happens in various sites across the Sahel belt of northern Nigeria, where malnutrition is a persistent problem. Known as community-based management of malnutrition, or CMAM, the programme was initiated in 2009 in response to the food and nutrition crisis across the Sahel belt. Patients without medical complications are treated in OTP sites like the Magami clinic, while those with medical complications are first admitted for inpatient care at stabilization centres, where medical complications are resolved before referral to OTP sites for therapeutic treatment.

One-stop shop

Both women were referred to the clinic by a member of the Infant and Young Child Feeding Support Group, whose members have been trained by UNICEF for this purpose. Members also make referrals to enable parents to register the births of their children.

“When they bring the children to the clinic, our primary goal is to cure them, but while treating them, we also ensure their births are registered if we discover they’d not been registered,” says Saidu Madaki, head nurse of the Magami Basic Health Centre.

The 2013 National Demographic and Health Survey puts birth registration coverage at nearly 30 per cent in Nigeria. Ms. Madaki says 550 births were registered at the clinic in 2013.

“The child is at the centre of the interventions we support,” says Dr. Abdulai Kaikai, Chief of UNICEF Field Office Bauchi. “So we are always looking for a one-stop shop where mothers and their children can access all the services.”

CMAM is being implemented in 618 sites in 11 states in northern Nigeria. With funding support from the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO), Children Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the Japanese Government. Since the programme started in September 2009, UNICEF has supported the treatment of 842,669 children with severe acute malnutrition, and expects to reach the 1 million mark in the first quarter of 2015.


 

 

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