Maternal Mortality: PLAN International Calls For More Action on Nutrition

More than 545,000 expectant mothers and adolescent girls in Kebbi and Sokoto States have accessed the Iron Folic Acid Supplement to prevent high rising maternal mortality in the north western states.
 In a project tagged Boosting Iron Folic Acid Supplementation for Pregnant Women in Northern Nigeria, PLAN International, since 2016 has worked with different stakeholders and community influencers in the states to raise the awareness on the need for the use of Iron/Folic Acid supplement especially for pregnant women.
Pregnant women in Northern Nigeria especially in Kebbi and Sokoto States because of peculiar challenges have been unable to access essential nutrients required during pregnancy. This has caused several instances of birth complications.
 In response, PLAN International with funding from Global Affairs Canada through the Micronutrient Initiative (MI), recently organised several states and community stakeholders to increase awareness on the need for the uptake of the supplement.
Expectedly the programme has gained such popularity that the state governments are adopting strategies to sustain the initiative in their states. “Although we do not have money, we have learnt how to combine local foods to feed our children.”
Mohammed Ladan, a Director at the Department of Health Planning, Research and Statistics, noted that the programme has raised the level of awareness among women thereby improving the level of demand.
 “We have been able to make progress into communities because of the radio jingles and the different engagement that have been deplored,” he said, adding that, “We have also encouraged the women by showing them other local foods which contain iron and folic acid so that they can consume more of such local foods during pregnancy.’”
Ladan said that states record can show how the incidences of preventable malnutrition is being reduced because of the ability of the women to properly combine local foods such that balanced nutrients can be derived from local meals.
Yafeyi Gabriel, the Project Manager of the PLAN International initiative noted that the programmes were aimed to contribute to safe maternal health and reducing of maternal death.
 “Our broad-based focus is to see an improved maternal and adolescent girl’s health across the states where we have intervened,” Gabriel said.
Through same funding partners, PLAN International also implemented the Zinc Scale Up Project in Katsina, Jigawa and Zamfara States.
 The intervention was at the instances of high incidences of diarrhea in the states and the reported number of mortality to incessant cholera outbreaks.
The intervention is to encourage the use of Zinc LO-ORS in the treatment of the diarrhea rather than the use of ineffective local herbs or the use of other un-prescribed medications.
Zamfara State records a high rate of fatality due to cholera. In March 2017 alone, about 218 children died due to the outbreak of cholera in nine communities. That incidence occurs almost annually, while a lot more cases are not captured.
PLAN International intervention is aimed at reducing death to cholera and creating demand for the uptake of Zinc and LO-ORS for treatment.
“We treated more than 180,000 children in the state for diarrhea in 2017,” Samaila Umar, Zamfara State’s Nutrition Officer said.
Samaila also noted that though the incidences of diarrhea was on the increase, the intervention of PLAN International through constant radio jingles, community engagement and stakeholders capacity building, the cases are reducing.
But Kabir Aliyu, Executive Secretary, Jigawa State Primary Health Care Agency believes that medication just makes the problem half solved.
According to Aliyu, “As long as we have the issues of poverty, open defecation and illiteracy, we would not be able to stop the incidences of diarrhea and completely eradicate Cholera.”
 Kabir also said concerted efforts must be increased on providing comprehensive health and environment care should be engaged to at least substantially reduce unnecessary death to cholera.

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