To this end, the programme manager of the ACF, Stella Esedunme in one of the sessions during a two-day advocacy training organised for civil society organisations (CSO), the media, Persons Living with Disabilities as well as the academicia at Tahir Guest Palace Kano, discovered that the reason responsible for stunting of children in Jigawa state is due to poor feeding practices, food quality and poor hygiene.
It was once discovered by the United Nations International Children Education Funds (UNICEF) that the stunting rate in Jigawa has reached an alarming proportion of 54%, meaning in every 10 children, five are stunted.
That was why a few years back, 494 children with nutritional related co-morbidities were enrolled into the Community Management Acute Malnutrition (CMAN) programme in the state.
Also, an advocacy and communication officer, Comrade Garba Salihu Abubakar took the participants on advocacy, the need for it and how necessary it is in terms of persuasion and lobbying the authorities concerned.
The participants were made to understand that advocacy can only be completed when the last result is obtained from the targets.
The two experts in nutrition however drew the attention of the authorities saddled with the responsibilities of nutrition in Jigawa to take note of problems always leading to malnutrition in children within that age bracket.
They observed that the flooding that occurred in some parts of the state can actually worsen further the prevalence of malnutrition considering the fact that a greater part of farmland was lost and washed away by the flood.
This according to investigation made many families susceptible to losing their incomes and food.
It also made it difficult for them to have good food to take care of their families, especially the younger ones.
“Getting good and affordable food in such areas is going to be difficult considering the fact that anything lost presently is hardly to be regained. So, many families are going to have problems feeding, especially nutritional food that can protect the younger ones against hunger, they noted.
Therefore, the resource persons appealed to policy makers in the state to have it behind their minds that if urgent measures are not taken in good times to assist the victims of the flood, in about 17 local government areas that are worse affected, then the looming hunger in such places is going to be unabated and worst still would be that their children who are under the age of five and pregnant mothers would have problem.
According to reports, many families in the rural areas, especially in hard-to-reached villages or hamlets hardly feed themselves with nutritional diets.
They have it, but they hardly use it to protect themselves against poor diets because they take it to the markets, sell it and buy something that cannot help them or defend their children against malnutrition as well as stunting.
It was further explained that in CDGP phase 1, cash transfer used to be given to some families was accompanied by nutritional education, advice and counselling to support the feeding of pregnant women, infants and young children under five.
These interventions are meant to contribute to increased food access for 420,000 individuals and to provide a more diversified diet to protect about 94,000 children from the risk of stunting, illness and death among others.
In view of this, the programme manager and the advocacy and communication officer grilled the participants on how best they can develop ideas on advocacy as well as making it work to achieve the target.
They explained that in advocacy, one needs to conceive an idea of making somebody saddled with the responsibility of the general public to work towards solving the problems that normally affect them.
According to the report, the objectives of the programme as a whole was to sensitise CSOs and the media about child-sensitive and nutrition- sensitive social protection so that in turn, they can educate the general public, politicians, and especially the policy makers on the need to protect the children below five years.
To that extent, building the capacity of CSOs and the Media can enable them to engage in the growing national dialogues around social protection and help establish, maintain monitoring and accountability mechanisms for inclusive and accountable social protection programmes in the state through triggering the cause of action by policy makers.
State govt effort gives a boost
When talking about the success or failure in nutrition policy in the state, the governor and his deputy, Mohammed Badaru Abubakar and Umar Namadi, respectively must be mentioned as the forefront policy makers who make it happen, make it work by the timely release of counterpart funding.
Also the state commissioner for finance, the permanent secretary as well as directors on the line also play the most important roles in making the programme successful.
Also, through the work done in CDGP over the years, it was said to have been designed in such a way that the transformation enjoyed over the long time period by the beneficiaries can still exist and be utilised to benefit the most vulnerable in the society even when the programme comes to an end.
Lessons learnt from the successes such as Jigawa state’s scaling up of its own cash transfer programme to tackle malnutrition and costing studies to assist other states in the federation to do the same was commendable.
Furthermore, the advocacy training and communication, was aimed at educating the CSOs and the media to also sensitise the general public, especially the stakeholders, for the timely intervention and release of funds to purchase Ready-to Use Therapeutic Foods (RUTF) for the children which can reduce the child mortality rate in many communities in the state.
The training has further educated participants on how best to enlighten pregnant women in the state to be eating good and nutritious food that has valuable ingredients to make the foetus to grow.
Such can reduce the maternal mortality as well as improve the health situation of both the mother and the child.
The participants were taken on various issues including methods beginning with problem identification, understanding the real subject matter before venturing into action of carrying out an advocacy.
Sharpening one mind towards the issue on ground is another activity that is compulsory to be done in order to achieve a goal.
The CDGP programme manager further informed the participants that choosing a strategy with the means of achieving a goal is necessary. This she said can only be achieved if the target of driving malnutrition out of the state can be made successful.
And planning one’s strategy as well as implementation of the issue at hand, she noted, is also necessary. After that, following up or monitoring the activity can make it more successful and meaningful and at the end, she said the entire programme will be achieved convincingly.
She therefore explained that for any society to be healthy, prosperous, progressive as well as achieve the desired goal, it takes a lot to produce healthy children into its next generations so that continuity from one stage to another will be unabated.
In conclusion, the participants were asked to develop the habit of tracking and following up issues or activities related to malnutrition as well as stunting among children in Jigawa state.
They also emphasised that the media and CSOs were deliberately chosen knowing very well that their day to day activities always involve the general public.