Save the Children International (SCI), an NGO, has recommended social and behavioural change as key to ending malnutrition in Kaduna State.
Malam Isah Ibrahim, SCI’s Nutrition Advocacy Adviser, Kaduna Office, made the recommendation on Wednesday in Kachia on the sideline of a three-day meeting to finalise Social and Behavioural Change Communication Strategy (SBCC) for Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) 2016 to 2020 in the state.
The meeting was organised by the National Orientation Agency (NOA) in collaboration with United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
Ibrahim newsmen that the lack of awareness about good nutrition habit was a major challenge to ending the scourge of malnutrition in the state.
According to him, the IYCF SBCC strategy would bridge the awareness gap and create the needed behavioural change toward good nutrition practices for the wellbeing of infant and young children in the state.
“At the moment, infant and young child feeding practices in the state is poor, resulting to all kinds of nutritional challenges affecting children under five years.
“The rate of timely breastfeeding initiation is 28.9 per cent, practice of exclusive breastfeeding 19.7 per cent and only 10 per cent of children age six to 23 months, were fed appropriately.
“This poor nutritional behaviour resulted in 11.7 per cent of under five years children acutely malnourished, 47 per cent stunted and 27 per cent severely malnourished,” he said.
Ibrahim pointed out that the document being adopted by the state provides strategic guidelines in the implementation of IYCF SBCC strategy in the country.
He added that the strategy was hinged on effective advocacy and social mobilisation to change people’s behaviour toward effective infant and young child feeding that would ensure healthy development of the child.
“The goal was to use communication for development to change people’s behaviour towards IYCF practices that would improve the nutritional status, growth, development, health, and survival of infants and young children in the state,’’ he said.
He however noted that it was not only about developing strategy, but more about resources mobilisation to implement nutrition strategies and policies.
He particularly pointed out that Kaduna state do not have a budget line for nutrition to implement most of its policies and strategies towards addressing malnutrition.
“There are a lot of health and nutrition policies lying dormant because there is no adequate resource to implement them.
“This is why Save the Children International along with other relevant stakeholders and development partners are currently pushing for a budget line for nutrition in the state 2019 budget,’’ he added.
He also identified proliferation of Breast Milk Substitute (BMS) in stores and health centres in the state as a serious setback to the ongoing fight against malnutrition.
According to him, Nigeria is a signatory to the World Health Assembly on the utilisation of infant formula (BMS), which requires BMS producers to indicate on their products that breast milk is better.
“But many of the producers are violating this code and goes as far as advertising the products in the state’s health facilities.
“This is seriously undermining the fight against infant and young child malnutrition, because breast milk contains all the nutrients needed by an infant for development, particularly from birth to second birthday of a child,’’ Ibrahim said.
It would be recalled that Kaduna state had in October 2017 commenced the process for the domestication of the national IYCF SBCC strategy with a view to improve the nutrition status of infant and young children in the state.