How insecurity affects fight against malnutrition in Kaduna State
By: Femi Mustapha
Data sponsored by United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) and other partners shows that no fewer than 21 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) of Nigeria face malnutrition and food insecurity in 2021 and 2022.
The Cadre Harmonisé (CH) which is the unified tool for consensual analysis of acute food and nutrition insecurity in the Sahel and West African Region surprisingly mentioned Kaduna state as one of the states to be at risk of malnutrition and food shortage in 2022 despite the huge investment by the state government in tackling the malnutrition menace in the state
The state governor, Nasir El-Rufa’i, at a workshop on “Effective Coordination of Nutrition Programme’’ organised for members of Kaduna State Committee on Food and Nutrition recently described the increasing population of malnourished persons in the state as frightening.
According to him, the number of malnourished children remained very high in spite of ongoing efforts to address it.
El-Rufa’i explained that despite the huge interventions, 11.7 percent of children under five years in the state were still suffering from acute malnutrition and 47 percent suffering from stunted growth.
He stressed that huge resources are being sunk by the state and development partners without much impact, largely because of uncoordinated intervention and the insecurity bedeviling the state.
Giving credence to this, a security expert, Salisu Umar opined that malnutrition in Kaduna state is deepening and threatening the survival of children in the state due to insecurity and other related factors.
He noted that hundreds of thousands of children are suffering from malnutrition in the state, especially in Birini Gwari, Zango Kataf, Kajuru, Giwa, and Igabi Local Government Areas of the States due to insecurity.
Umar added that no fewer than 279,542 children under five years are suffering from Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) in Kaduna State. Most of them are domiciled in insecurity-prone LGAs, adding that the insecurity includes: terrorist attacks, banditry, kidnapping, and communal and religious crisis.
Similarly, a resident of Maro village in Kajuru LGA, Bawa Kajuru said the unabated attacks by bandits and kidnappers forced many residents who are predominantly farmers to abandon their farmland safety areas. He stressed that this has affected food production, which resulted in scarcity.
“Even where we are now we eat what we get from the people of goodwill and donations from organizations, in the situations we find ourselves, nobody is talking about the nutritional value of food rather than just get anything to give the children. This in no small measure has helped to increase the number of malnourished children in the area” He said.
Umar stressed that the Community Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) centres in the Kajuru Local Government is deserted because of insecurity.
However, the State Coordinator of Civil Society Scale Up Nutrition (CS-SUNN), Jessica Bartholomew said even though the Community Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) centres at present are not witnessing the expected numbers of patients, she is not aware of attacks on CMAM centres in the state.
Bartholomew said insecurity is causing the family to go through hunger, so there is not much they can do in terms of providing for the child with adequate nutrition the child need.
“So, insecurity has affected nutrition in children especially, but so far, I have not heard any SMAC centre affected by insecurity.
“If you look at Kaduna South that you have made mention Zangon Kataf, Kaura, then Kaduna North like Birin Gwari, Kajuru the people are experiencing food insecurity due to the fact that they can no longer access their farmlands,
“You know what it means, so when we have a food crisis, the higher people suffering from hunger, we will have children who are not fed well and that will lead to an increase in the number of severe Malnourished child,
“If there were no insecurity in the first place, a family will practice other all preventable ways of raising up their children like providing exclusive breastfeeding for six months, then introducing appropriate complementary feeding from six months to 24 months,
“But because even the mother needs to eat well, but insecurity causes the family to go through hunger, so you will see that there is not much they can do in terms of providing for the child adequate nutrition the child needs.”
Similarly, the state secretary of Civil Society Scaling-up Nutrition, Mr. Zayed Baidu said insecurity in certain LGAs in Kaduna state has negatively impacted food security in those areas by worsening the malnutrition situation among women and children under 5 years.
According to him, households’ economy and nutrition have been affected because farmers’ access to farmlands has been limited, reducing the amount of food cultivated, saying when food crops are harvested, the roads to the communities and markets are infested with criminals under different guises and nomenclature.
Zayed expressed dismay that harvested crops either get spoilt or their economic value reduced before getting to farm centers, noting that low income in these areas, access to adequate diet and micronutrients are hampered with women and children under 5 years being the most affected.
He explained that not all LGAs in Kaduna state have CMAM centers. Only 15 out of 23 LGAs provide CMAM services, stressing that insecurity alone can’t be blamed for affecting CMAM interventions in Kaduna state.
“Though Birnin Gwari LGA could not get a CMAM site established due to insecurity even when all modalities have been put in place to have one there. Other LGAs not having cannot and should not be excused for insecurity reasons.” He said.
Meanwhile, State Nutrition Officer, Ramatu Musa said acute Malnutrition reportedly killed 124 Children in the state between January and September 2021, with 21,265, others currently on admission, these figures are expected to soar high due to the security challenges bedeviling the state.
Ramatu, however, said with the rampant insecurity in some LGAs the state in 2021 cured 15,329 malnourished children, 2,128 defaulted while 264 others remained unchanged after treatment (unrecovered) at Community Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) centres within the same period under review.
In a sharp reaction, Madam Felicia Chindo Gora in Zango Kataf LGA said the unabated activities of bandits in the Local Government Areas are undermining farming cultivation, thereby making malnutrition pronounced.
She added that In many farming communities across the state, for instance, locals no longer go to farms due to fear of bandits. These are people who cultivate crops and other food items which the city dwellers relied on.
As long as these farmers keep away from their farms for fear of their lives, the local production of food and these raw materials would be affected and the resultant effect will be an unprecedented increase in the price of food and other human necessities in the markets.
Felicia added that although the state does not have designated camping for the settlement of internally displaced persons, IDPs, such as persons that fled from farming communities have since reintegrated with their relations in safer places.
“They have abandoned farmlands in troubled areas like Zango Kataf Birnin Gwari, Giwa, Chikun, Giws, etc., and have no immediate plans of returning to their farms which were in the bushes occupied by bandits.
“Birnin Gwari for example has been described as a killing field where occasionally, bandits terrorize the people with sophisticated weapons, killing, maiming, and abducting peasants for ransom.
A public Commentator Mukhtar Ya’u said, looking critically, from crisis-ridden areas of the state farmers-herders clashes have left in its trail heavy losses of lives and property. These losses of lives have adversely affected farming activities and other related businesses. This has resulted in a drastic reduction in farm outputs, a development that heightened the fear of hunger and malnutrition
According to him, a food crisis is imminent since most of the foodstuffs consumed and traded in are grown in rural Areas kidnappers and bandits’ activities pose grievous risks to farmers, livestock breeders, and dealers in farm produce, forcing them to migrate to new locations far from their farmlands while placing an additional burden on the transportation of food and farm produce to other states. Consequently, prices of foodstuffs have skyrocketed, particularly in the southern part of the country as well.
Food is one of the basic necessities of life necessary for survival. Food crises will definitely lead to inadequate food products which will no doubt send society into famine, malnutrition, widespread diseases, and deaths among others. As the saying goes, “a hungry man is an angry man”, thus, lack of food can also lead to civil unrest in society
Subject to that, several agricultural policies have been formulated to curtail food security challenges in Nigeria. Unfortunately, these policies have not yielded the desired results of increased food production. Thus, there is a need for the government to go back to the drawing board in order to come up with effective and plausible measures on how to tackle this problem before it metamorphoses into the issue of national chaos.
Speaking to this reporter, the vice-chairman of Community Joint Task Force Polewire Town in Birnin-Gwari LGA, Alhaji, Bashir Muhammad said a community that paid money to bandits to access their farmland will have a negative story to tell, and one of them is the soaring malnutrition menace currently experienced in the area.
Muhammad said the primary health care facility within the vicinity has been abandoned because of the activities of bandits. He explained that children under 5 and women are at the receiving end of this ugly situation that is begging for remedy from the government, well-meaning Nigerians, and international agencies.
“Some basic interventions such as the ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF), and micronutrient powder are being diverted and moved to safer areas, hence they do not get to the beneficiaries.
“I strongly believe that with the adherence to coordinated interventions and reduced insecurity challenges will have a high chance of addressing the scourge of malnutrition.” He said.
There is no gain in saying that the security challenges facing some parts of Kaduna state have had a negative effect on the fight against malnutrition in the state. The efforts put together by the state government, state nutritional council, and partners seem not to be yielding the desired result because of the activities of insurgents, bandits, kidnappers, and others.
The laudable roadmap of the Kaduna State Government to address the issue of under-5 and women’s malnutrition problem seems to be at a standstill because of the activities of the marauders.