As part of its Hunger Crisis Appeal project, the Nigerian Red Cross Society (NRCS) has set up 140 Mothers Clubs to tackle acute hunger and malnutrition in local communities in the North-west and North-central regions of the federation.
In collaboration with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the NRSC said it is working to reduce acute hunger in Nigeria and improve the nutrition and livelihoods of 51,000 beneficiaries in communities experiencing acute hunger due to climate change, COVID-19 and insecurity.
According to a press statement sent to PREMIUM TIMES, NRSC said 3,500 pregnant and lactating women are being targeted in the clubs, and that an integrated community-based campaign on acute malnutrition, promotion of Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) is being conducted.
It added that the mothers are being trained on the best health and nutritional practices that will help keep infants and young children healthy and productive with support from the Federal Ministry of Health.
It said the programme is currently ongoing across three local governments each in Sokoto, Katsina, Kebbi, Zamfara, Benue, Nasarawa and Niger States.
About the intervention
Speaking on the intervention, the secretary-general of the Nigerian Red Cross Society, Abubakar Kende, said acute hunger breeds malnutrition and that it requires immediate action, particularly for pregnant, lactating mothers and vulnerable children.
He said: “A good number of them are now in a situation where they eat what they can get instead of choosing diets that will make them and their children healthy and this is something that concerns us greatly.
“We are grateful to our funding partners; The American Red Cross, British Red Cross, Canadian Red Cross, Japanese Red Cross, and Netherlands Red Cross who have gone ahead to provide much-needed resources to allow us to reach the most vulnerable people in these 7 states. However, more support is still required as the funding gap is still huge vis a vie the needs.”
What statistics say
The NRSC secretary-general further noted that “through the Hunger Crisis Appeal, 700 Pregnant and Lactating women (PLWs) have received the second round of supplementary conditional cash grants to boost their nutritional status and that of the babies they carry or infants that they are nursing.”
According to a report by the Federal Ministry of Health and Cadre Harmonise, Nigeria has the second-highest burden of stunted children in the world.
The report quoted an estimation of 2 million, noting a national prevalence rate of 32 per cent of these children being under five with seven per cent of women of childbearing age suffering from acute malnutrition.
NRSC added that the campaign aims to empower mothers and caregivers with knowledge of nutrition in local communities in the selected states where it is also estimated that about 19.4 million people will be facing acute hunger between June and August 2022.
In his remarks, NRSC Coordinator, Health, and Care, Manir Jega, said the activity will, through the formation of mothers’ clubs share nutrition information, identify and refer malnourished children and lactating mothers to the nearest health facility after being measured with the Mid Upper Arm Circumference, MUAC tape.
“We know that if mothers and caregivers have better information, it will lead to healthier children and a better society, we have set up 140 Mothers Club in the 7 states. We are working closely with the Federal Ministry of Health on this.
“One of the leading causes of malnutrition in Nigeria is poor dietary knowledge adding that the network of Red Cross volunteers would help educate lactating mothers and caregivers on how to combine available foods to reduce malnutrition and improve the production of breast milk for infants during the weekly mother’s club meetings.
“This is expected to go a long way in reducing malnutrition, prevent child mortality, and morbidity and promote a healthy diet,” he said.
Also, the coordinator, Disaster Management, Benson Agbro, noted that the spate of farmer herder conflicts and banditry in the country is another leading cause of malnutrition.
“When people cannot access markets to buy food, or they cannot access their fields to grow the required dietary foods, they will eat whatever food they see is available to them to just fill their stomachs and live to fight another day without minding the nutritional value,” he said.
Distribution of cash
As part of the measures to fight hunger, the NRSC recently distributed cash to 30,000 people in 5,000 households who are reportedly facing acute hunger in the same regions where the clubs are set up.
The society also noted in a press statement that it planned to reach 200,000 more people who are in “dire need of humanitarian support and facing food insecurity due to a combination of climate change, conflicts and COVID-19.”
The NRCS stated that it is taking action to fight hunger in the selected northern regions specifically because the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (UNFAO) estimated that about 19.4 million people in the regions will be facing acute hunger between June and August 2022.
The UNFAO report which was released in March 2022, in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development -FMARD and other stakeholders, analyses acute food and nutrition insecurity in the Sahel and West African region.
The report noted that the food crisis will affect Nigerians in 21 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), including 416,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).
It added that about 14.4 million people including 385,000 IDPs in 21 States and FCT of Nigeria are already in the food crisis as of May 2022.
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