Community nutrition mobilizers save lives in north-east Nigeria

One little boy recovers from severe acute malnutrition with support from UNICEF and the Kuwait Fund

Folashade Adebayo, Communication Officer, UNICEF Nigeria
A boy sits on his mother's lap
UNICEF Nigeria/2020/
08 January 2021

“Witches are after my son. They want to kill him.’’

These were the thoughts of Rukaya Musa, mother to Ahmadu Musa, when her son became extremely emaciated. At 25 months, Ahmadu Musa weighed less than 7 kg – a weight he should have left behind at seven months.

“Witchcraft was the only explanation I could give concerning his condition. My son was completely wasted, and I was afraid for his life,’’ said Rukaya, who lives in Gwoza, Borno State, in conflict-affected north-east Nigeria.

Community nutrition mobilisers found the little boy during a screening exercise in Gwoza, in Borno State.

“The boy had severe acute malnutrition,” said Yusuf Ezekiel, the community mobiliser who initially screened Ahmadu.

A child is examined for signs of malnutrition
UNICEF Nigeria/2020/
Ahmadu Musa before the intervention

“We were able to counsel his mother and referred her to the nearest nutrition site. Our mobile team admitted him into the treatment programme and fortunately he had no medical complications. He was given therapeutic food and routine drugs. Fortunately, he responded very well to treatment.’’

Ahmadu is one of hundreds of children who have benefited from the UNICEF-supported intervention to halt child mortality in the Gwoza area of Borno State. With support from the Kuwait Fund, nutrition mobilizers and mobile teams visit communities to screen children and admit those with severe acute malnutrition to the nutrition programme, providing them with life-saving drugs and ready-to-use therapeutic food.

The intervention must be quick, as children with severe acute malnutrition are at high risk of death – with a limited capacity to respond to stressors, including infections.

Rukaya is thrilled that her son has bounced back to good health.

“Looking back now, it is funny that I attributed his condition to witchcraft. Clearly it is not. My son weighed 8.2 kg when he was discharged – well on his way to returning to health. I am very grateful to everyone who made this possible,’’ she said.