By Philip Yatai
Kaduna State has recorded 12,246 new cases of malnutrition among children under five years, between January and May, according to official report.
A nutrition data obtained by NAN from the state on Thursday indicated that a total of 5,284 malnourished children were being treated from the beginning of the year.
They were being treated in various Community Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) sites in the state, with support from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and other partners.
The document showed that 1,909 new cases were recorded in January, 2,283 in February, 2,857 in March, 2,556 in April and 2,641 in May.
This indicated that the new cases recorded during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown in the state amounted to 5,197.
However, a total of 8,869 children had been cured, while 65 deaths, 178 non-recovery and 1,469 defaulters were recorded within the period.
Commenting on the development, Mr Isah Ibrahim, Nutrition Advocacy Advisor, Save the Children International, blamed the increasing rate of malnutrition in the state on poor budget performance.
Ibrahim further told NAN that the COVID-19 pandemic had further created a lot of gaps in the performance of nutrition interventions in the state.
He commended the state government for providing uninterrupted nutrition and health services throughout the lockdown period and for supporting vulnerable families with food to cushion the effect of the lockdown.
“Nonetheless, I am particularly not happy with the performance of nutrition funding in the state. The year is half gone and there is no single release and cash backing of funds for nutrition intervention at the state level.
“At the local level, very few Local Government Areas were able to make one or two cash-backing of funds for nutrition activities.
“This is even when over N1.1 billion have been budgeted by the state and local governments for nutrition line Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to carry out sensitive and specific nutrition interventions.
“The state government had particularly budgeted N500 million in the 2020 Budget for nutrition intervention, before it was slashed to N300 million in the reviewed draft budget, due to COVID-19,” he said.
He stressed that relevant agencies would not be able to do much without funds to work with, adding that most of the current nutrition interventions in the state were donor driven.
“This, coupled with the outbreak of COVID-19 has increased the burden of malnutrition in the state,” he said.
Ibrahim appealed to the state government to ensure timely release and cash backing of the N300 million reviewed nutrition budget to enable agencies implement nutrition activities.
This, the nutrition advisor said, would prevent more children from becoming malnourished and increase the survival rate and development of malnourished children in the state.
He noted that the need for 2020 budget review in response to COVID-19 pandemic was necessary but argued that slashing nutrition and health sector budget was uncalled for.
According to him, nutrition and health sectors are critical areas that need more funding to efficiently respond to COVID-19 pandemic.
On his part, Mr Muhammad Awwal-Waziri, Programme Manager, Kaduna State Emergency Nutrition Action Plan (KADENAP) noted the challenges of budget releases and cash backing.
He however said that the relevant MDAs were not writing memos requesting for funds to implement nutrition programmes.
“So far, from January to date, only Kaduna State Emergency Management Agency had submitted a memo requesting for funds to carry out nutrition sensitive interventions, based on their work plan for 2020.
“All the nutrition line MDAs need to step up and be proactive in terms of requesting for allocated funds to carry out planned nutrition programmes and interventions,” Awwal-Waziri said.