The Nigerian Red Cross Society has set up 140 Mothers Clubs in North-Central and North-West Nigeria as part of the Nigeria Hunger Crisis Appeal. The clubs are spread across three local governments each in Sokoto, Katsina, Kebbi, Zamfara, Benue, Nasarawa and Niger states.
3,500 mothers (Pregnant and Lactating Women) are being targeted in 140 Mothers Clubs (21,000 indirect beneficiaries) through an integrated community-based campaign on Acute malnutrition and promoting Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) for care givers and lactating mothers in the North-West and North-Central parts of the country through the Hunger Crisis Emergency Appeal in collaboration with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
The mothers are being trained on best health and nutritional practices that will help keep infants and young children healthy and productive. Training is being provided by the Nigerian Red Cross Society with support from the Federal Ministry of Health.
According to the Federal Ministry of Health report and a report, Cadre Hamonize, Nigeria has the second highest burden of stunted children in the world, of an estimation of 2 million, with a national prevalence rate of 32 percent of these children being under five with seven percent of women of childbearing age suffering from acute malnutrition.
The report says, Seven percent of women of childbearing age also suffer from acute malnutrition, thus the campaign aims to empower mothers and care givers with knowledge on nutrition in local communities in 7 states namely Benue, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto, Nasarawa, Niger and Zamfara where it is also estimated that about 19.4 million people will be facing acute hunger between June and August 2022.
The Secretary General of the Nigerian Red Cross Society, Abubakar Kende says: “acute hunger breeds malnutrition and this requires immediate action particularly for pregnant, lactating mothers and vulnerable children. 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.” “Kende further said, “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.” Currently through the Hunger Crisis Appeal 700 Pregnant and Lactating women (PLWs) received a 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 to add to the 5000 HHs which received multipurpose cash grants to fight Hunger across 7 states.
Dr. Manir Jega, Coordinator, Health, and Care, NRCS says, the activity will, through the formation of mother’s clubs share information on nutrition, 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 care givers 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 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 care givers 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, morbidity and promote a healthy diet, Dr. Jega noted.
According to Benson Agbro, Coordinator Disaster Management, 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 in order to just fill their stomachs and live to fight another day without minding the nutritional value”.
The Nigerian Red Cross with support from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is working to reduce acute hunger in Nigeria and improve the nutrition and livelihoods of 51,000 beneficiaries in North-West and North-Central Nigeria. The impacted communities are experiencing acute hunger because of climate change, COVID 19 and insecurity which prevents many of them from accessing their farmland and in some cases has forced them to flee their homes.