Saving lives of malnourished children in northeast Nigeria

UNICEF and partners work across northeast Nigeria to help make sure families can access free nutrition screening, counselling, and treatment for malnourished children.

Akingbade Wale
measuring-child-for-malnutrtion
UNICEF Nigeria/2018/Ayowale
05 July 2018

5 July 2018 - On May 15, 2018, Aisha arrived at the health facility anxious about the health of her three- year- old son Mohammed. He was frail, sickly and continuously cried.

“By just looking at him one could tell that there is something wrong with my son. I did not know what was wrong and kept hoping that he would get better,” said Aisha.

Displaced from her home due to the ongoing conflict in northeast Nigeria, Aisha alone struggles to provide enough food for her family of five. She left her home in Bama and now shares a humble house with a friend who also has three children. To survive, Aisha sells food stuffs on the street and often goes without adequate food for her family.

Concerned, a UNICEF-supported community nutrition mobilizer referred Aisha to the clinic for a nutrition assessment. Every month, a team of community nutrition mobilisers go into the communities where displaced people live to identify malnourished children for referral to the right nutrition programme.

“Mohammed was an obvious case of severe malnutrition, weighing just 7kgs and was immediately admitted into the programme for treatment,” says Adamu Mohammed Mala, a nutrition services provider at Layin Ngoshe facility.

Fortunately, after medical examination, Mohammed did not present any medical complications and was admitted to the outpatient therapeutic programme treatment for children with severe acute malnutrition. He still had an appetite and could be given Ready-to-use Therapeutic Food” (RUTF). Sachets of RUTF are packed full of all the nutrients young children need to recover from severe acute malnutrition and many people refer to RUTF as “miracle food.” 

malnurished-boy
UNICEF Nigeria/2018/Ayowale
Mohammed on admission into the nutrition treatment programme.
nutrition-consultation
UNICEF Nigeria/2018/Ayowale
Nutrition services provider Adamu Mohammed Mala screening a child for malnutrition. UNICEF.

Aisha was also counselled on how to feed RUTF and administer antibiotics to Mohammed.

“I love my son, I followed the instructions I was given and I gradually saw my son improving. Every day he got better and every day there was progress,” said Aisha.

Every week, Aisha took Mohammed for check- up and in six weeks he was certified cured and given a clean bill of health.

RUTF doesn’t just save the life of a child with severe acute malnutrition, but it enables the child to recover without lasting ill-effects.

Coordinated by the community nutrition mobiliser, support groups for mothers with children under the age of 59 months share information and tips on recommended infant and young child feeding practices. This further helps to ensure there are no relapses.

UNICEF and partners work across northeast Nigeria to help make sure families can access free nutrition screening, counselling, and treatment for malnourished children.