A good number of children in Barangoni community, a suburb in Bwari Area Council of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT are suffering from severe acute malnutrition and stunting.
This was noticed when a non-government organization, the International Society of Media in Public Health, ISMPH, took journalists on a field visit to the community as part of its European Union Agent for Citizen-driven Transformation, EU-ACT, Project.
READ: Did you know that Nigeria has highest malnutrition figures in sub-Saharan Africa and 2nd in the world?
The EU-Act Project which is operational in Bwari and Kwali Area Councils of the FCT is a nutrition centered project that seeks to empower women to ensure sustainability in the provision of good nutrition for families.
Baragoni is a community that is far flung from the bubbly town of Bwari and mostly inhabited by low income earners such as junior civil servants, petty traders and peasant farmers.
A walk through the community shows poor sanitation and hygiene practices as waste water could be seen flowing right through compounds with attendant flies and bad smell.
Gathered at the chief’s palace were women numbering close to fifty, all carrying children under-five years, showing various forms of malnutrition.
Halima is eight months old, very tiny, always crying, looking weak and the hair on her head almost falling off. She is said to be suffering from severe acute malnutrition.
Halima’s mother died just immediately after giving birth to her, leaving Rabi Sule, her grandmother with the task of catering for nutrition needs but she could only do little, owing to the situation she found herself in.
Rabi spoke in Hausa and an interpreter related what she was saying.
“I lived in a community in Zamfara but had to leave to Barangoni because Zamfara is not well. My 20 years old daughter died immediately after giving birth to her second child in Zamfara.
“After her death, I have been responsible for taking care of the child. I have been breastfeeding the child and giving mild. I started giving only pap and breast because I don’t have money. From one month to three months it was milk and breast. We are just managing.
“I have seven children and with the two that my daughter left me with, they are now 9. My husband does small business and it has not been easy. As you can see, the baby is 8months yet looks like a 2 or 3 months old. If there is any way you can help, you should help.
“That is why I have come out here as they called me to come hoping to receive any help that I can get. It is not easy on my at all.”
Another woman in the community, Dorcas Gbatsaf is married to a secondary school teacher. Her child took ill and on visiting the hospital, she was told that the baby was suffering from malnutrition.
Gbatsaf said she was helpless because she had nothing doing, but expressed optimism that her lot will be better if she could be empowered with a skill to earn some income.
“My baby was sick and the problem is, she was not eating, her feeding was very bad, that is what the doctor told me. She is 11 months. She was not eating anything; anyone I give her she will not eat. I will now force her with akamu, after taking it she will vomit it.
“I am very happy for this meeting because I need something doing. I wish I had something doing, all these things that are happening to me and my children, not feeding well, with my children, things wouldn’t have been like that. Because I wish I had money with me, I will introduce my baby with this one, if the baby refuses to eat this one, I will now try another one. But since there is no money with me, I don’t have any other thing to do than to sit down and look at her.”
The Programme Officer on the EU-ACT project, Bukola Smith explained that ISMP believes in the need to tackle malnutrition sustainably, hence the decision to train and empower mothers of malnourished children to boost their capacity to earn and provide for their children.
“So we intend to empower mothers of malnourished children. The idea is to look at a sustainable solution to the issue of severe acute malnutrition. And while Ready to Use Therapeutic Foods (RUTF) is very effective, in a long term there is such limited supply.
“And so we have to think in bigger terms. What this programmes intends to achieve is to identify mothers of severely malnourished children and then empower them, give them skills, a means to make even greater income. And we are hoping to see how that transforms into providing better feeding for their children. And so we think it is a more sustainable solution.”
As the saying goes, if you want to empower an individual, empower a man, but when you want to empower a community, empower a woman; it is therefore hoped that the EU-ACT project of ISMPH, will improve nutrition in families of Barangoni community.