Bauchi declares state of emergency to fight acute malnutrition

Considering the prevailing situation of Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) in Bauchi State which has claimed the lives of many innocent children, the state government has declared a state of emergency on SAM in the state.

Also, the Chairman of the State House Committee on Health will immediately engage all agencies in charge of health in the state to establish a child nutrition committee where all issues regarding SAM and child health would be discussed in order to close the identified gaps and commit to ensuring that the problem of SAM was addressed to the barest minimum.

These are contained in a communique issued at the end of a Retreat organized for relevant Committees of Bauchi State House of Assembly (BAHA) by Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) on prevention and treatment of Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) as a child right held at Maidugu Hotels, Gombe.

The communique signed by all 31 members of BAHA led by the Speaker, Abubakar Y Sulaiman, contained that the house would have an in-house discussion to find clarity on both the data presented and the status and have a policy and strategic bill to address and guide against the identified/proposed issues.

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Also, the Appropriation Committee would discuss with the Ministry of Budget and Planning and the state health agencies to address the issue of appropriation of health/ nutrition budget line in the state budget as well as review existing CMAM centres and take actions to improve the condition of the centres and SAM generally in the state.

The members further resolved that “We are ready to work to ensure that the lives of Bauchi State children are improved. As legislators, we have the powers to legislate and oversight. We would, therefore, perform our duties to ensure that we conduct proper oversight functions and follow up to ensure prompt release of funds as regards SAM and ensure they are used appropriately.”

To ensure that immediate attention was given to the problem, the Chairman, House Committee on Health would coordinate a visit to all the CMAM sites across the state.

The retreat had lamented the index which according to NNHS 2018 statistics on nutrition situation in Bauchi State, the stunting rate is at 45.6%, Moderate Acute Malnutrition is at 29.3% while Severe Acute Malnutrition is at 16.3% figures which are said to be higher than the national average of 32.0% and North East Geopolitical zone average of 42.8%.

Also, Bauchi State experienced ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF) stock out in May 2019 while 10,000 cartoons were supplied by the Federal Government, procured through United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in September which ran out in January 2020 making the state to currently be out of stock of RUFT again.

It further lamented that though Bauchi State has three (3) Nutrition based Policies namely: National Strategic Nutrition policy, National Food and Nutrition Policy and Bauchi State Nutrition costed plan, the dreaded impacts of malnutrition include monumental economic and productivity losses, irreparable potential loss, increased susceptibility to communicable diseases and other infections.

With the Universal Declaration of Human Right, and Child Right Act, adequate nutrition status constitutes a Child Right issue in Nigeria while Malnutrition impedes physical growth and cognitive development of children with no fewer than 2.5million children affected in Nigeria, it also observed.

The retreat also observed that with the recent development integrating RUTF as part of the National Essential Drug list, adequate and sustainable procurement of RUTF remain paramount to combat existing cases of SAM in the state while Sustained Community-based Management of Severe Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) activities remain paramount to complement existing efforts at enhancing preventive and curative measures against Severe Acute Malnutrition in Bauchi state.

It, however, observed that there is information gap between the agencies responsible for primary health care & nutrition, and the Members, Bauchi State House of Assembly on the actual situation and status of Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) in Bauchi State while there is inadequate national consciousness, awareness, information on, and ownership of the SAM issues at the legislative level, consequently, there has been little fairness regarding both budgeting and release of funds for SAM.

Unexplained suspension of the standing order still remains a challenge for the CMAM activities in the State just as the Bauchi State House of Assembly did not remove nutrition (RUTF) budget line from the state budget while Bauchi State government has not released funds for RUFT in the last 6 years with Majority members of the House claiming that they are not aware of the prevalent issues of SAM in the state.

They, therefore, recommended that there is need for more advocacy and awareness creation on issues of SAM for members, to enable them to have a better understanding regarding the seriousness of these issues declaring that, “We are ever ready to arrest the situation and engagement on budget of SAM in the state.”

The House Committee on health should go back and engage the agencies responsible for PHC in the state on budget and data and present their findings to the Bauchi House of Assembly while the state government should as a matter of concern demonstrate strong political will to ensure the release of budgetary provision for the procurement and administration of RUTF in the state to avoid future stock out and attendant deaths, they further recommended.

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