By Uchenna Ugwu/ Chukwuemeka Opara
Abakaliki, May 29, (2020)
The Ebonyi government, through its Ministry of Health says it is currently treating over 800 children of acute malnutrition in the state.
The Nutrition Officer in the ministry, Mr Cyprain Ogbonna said this on Friday while interacting with newsmen on the development in Abakaliki.
This is as Gov. David Umahi of Ebonyi same Friday, swore-in caretaker chairmen for the 13 Local Government Areas (LGAs) of the state.
The tenure of the elected chairmen in the councils elapsed on May 28.
Ogbonna revealed that the 800 malnutrition cases were children selected from across various communities and those who before the intervention battled with the scourge.
He said that a trained team at Maternal and Child Health (MCH), Onueke Health Center in Ezza South Local Government Area of the state, reviewed a case of a 59-months-old- boy, Master Kelechi Ede facing malnutrition in the state.
“In a document issued, it was gathered that Ede was one among the children facing severe malnutrition but had bounced back to life.
“This followed efforts of the officers working at MCH in Onueke who treated him with a supplement known as Therapeutic foods.
“It was established that before March 23, 2020, the life threatening form of undernutrition had made the child so skinny and stunted that he could only weigh nine kilogrammes.
“Before the dramatic change, the health officers were reviewing the patient on weekly basis and placed him on steady food clinically approved for treatment of such problem.
“Ede represents over 800 children whose lives had been saved while there are still numerous number in a similar condition in the state,” Ogbonna said.
Meanwhile, a report from National Nutrition Health Survey (NNHS) in 2018 made available to newsmen, stated that, if nothing is done, no fewer than 20,000 children between the ages of six and 59 months are liable to die annually of malnutrition in the state.
The Nutritionist, while reacting to the report, disclosed that the impending nutrition challenge prompted the action of the Federal Ministry of Health in collaboration with United Nations International Children’s Education Fund (UNICEF) to establish treatment centers across three zones of the state.
“It is based on this report that Federal government establishment a program known as Community Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) so that the danger could be averted,” he said.
According to him, the MCH centers in the three zones of Azuiyiokwu, Onueke and Amaechara in Afikpo respectively were currently treating over 800 malnourished children with therapeutic food.
Ogbonna noted that the trained health workers were in steady harvest of more children from the communities.
He described malnutrition as lack of adequate nourishment that made either adult and children to present skinny and stunted nature.
He attributed one of the causes of malnutrition to parents’ inability to breastfeed their children appropriately and inappropriate complementary feeding.
The nutrition expert said that unhygienic practices and less nutrient intake were major causes of malnutrition.
“Nutrition is a technical area that one needs to be careful about but it is quite unfortunate that many do not breast feed their children not knowing that the first milk known as colostrum serves as antibiotics to newborn babies and even suckling eases off placenta after delivery.
He further called for assistance and partnership to enable the nutrition sector, achieve its desired result by boosting both preventive and curative measures.
The Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Dr Christian Achi, who confirmed the prevalence of cases of malnourished children, attributed it to cumulative effect of marginalization of the state, before its creation in 1996.
He added that the harvested malnourished children were placed on the food supplements in the clinics designated for such cases.
“I disagree with the prediction of NNHS claiming that 20,000 children would die annually.
“We have identified the problem and government has also embarked on the measures to remedy the situation,” Achi said.
He advised that mothers should always adhere to the directive on exclusive breastfeeding so that the problem could be reduced.
According to him, a large number of mothers have been educated in the health facilities on adequate food preparation and combination that would give the desired nutrients needed for the good health of every child.
He further called on stakeholders to partner with the state government on the fight against malnutrition to trace and assist other affected children within their domain.
Before Umahi’s swearing-in of the caretaker chairmen, the state House of Assembly had earlier, confirmed the list of the nominees submitted by the governor.
The governor charged them to assist the government in defeating the COVID-19 pandemic.
Umahi, who also swore in other appointed political office holders at the occasion, reminded the chairmen that they were coming into office at a very ‘terrible period of COVID-19 pandemic’.
“The virus infuses fear into people but God has given us strong heart to overcome fear.
“We will not allow anyone to use COVID- 19 to instill fear into us and the disease is still avoidable through observance of personal hygiene, adherence to all precautionary protocols and prayers of our religious leaders,” he said.
The governor said that in the coming months, the state would be working with the Federal Government on re-opening of schools and its economy.
“We did not completely shut our economy but because we cannot operate in isolation, our economy cannot grow the way it is supposed to grow.
“Presently, with the gradual opening of the economy in the country, we believe that we will reach the level we planned with or without COVID- 19..
“COVID- 19 has brought lots of challenges and opportunities and we Africans should start thinking of how to develop our health institutions and agricultural potentials and technologies,” he said.
He urged the incoming chairmen to realise where their predecessors made mistakes and their areas of strongholds, all in the effort to keep to their oaths of office.
“Whatever you are doing presently, realise that you are before the social media, the public and that you must account for every fund that enters your council’s coffers.
“Your enemies will not be my enemies, make friends as you will meet challenges where people expect you to make magic and manufacture money,” he said.
Umahi thanked the out-gone chairmen for their efforts in developing the state, noting that the average of two kilometres of concrete roads they constructed in their councils would be indelible.
“These roads cost N200million each and when you pass through them on your way home, you will be revived, happier and beat your chest for doing well,” he said.
Mr Cletus Ofoke, state Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, said that the caretaker chairmen came into being due to the inability of the Ebonyi State Independent Electoral Commission (EBSIEC) to conduct council polls in the state.
“This is due to the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the globe and most importantly, the need to avoid vacuum in the leadership of the councils.
“This action is in line with section 26 sub section one and two of Ebonyi Coronavirus and other Infectious Diseases Law 2020, section 10 paragraph C of the Ebonyi local government council and development centres law and the LGA transition committee amendment law of 2015,” he said.
Mrs Amuche Otunta, Caretaker Chairman of Afikpo North LGA, thanked the governor for appointing them and pledged on behalf of others, to justify the confidence reposed in them.