The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Wednesday inaugurated Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) services in Kaduna South Local Government Area of Kaduna State.
Dr Zakari Adam, Chief of Field Office, UNICEF Kaduna, said at the event in Kaduna, that the measure was to support ongoing efforts to improve the nutritional status of children in the state.
Adam explained that UNICEF had supported the training of 37 health workers and 50 community volunteers in the LGA to ensure smooth take-off of the comprehensive IYCF services in the area.
“UNICEF in collaboration with the state Primary Health Care Development Board, had supported the establishment of comprehensive IYCF services in 12 LGAs in the state.
“We are here today, to inaugurate IYCF services delivery in Kaduna South LGA, bringing UNICEF IYCF supported LGAs to 13 in the state,” he said.
He said the goal is to increase access to skilled counselling on breastfeeding and complementary feeding to ensure optimal IYCF practices in the area.
Adam said that the gesture was part of UNICEF’s mandate to improve the health and nutrition status of women and children through capacity development, supplies and service delivery.
He explained that the promotion of optimal IYCF practices was necessitated by the poor maternal, newborn and child nutrition in the state.
He described IYCF as the “bedrock” of child growth and development and a preventive approach to childhood diseases, by ensuring adequate nutrition of the child in the first 1000 days of life.
“The first 1000 days, beginning from conception to the child’s second birthday, presents a crucial window of opportunity to prevent irreversible damages that may arise from malnutrition.
“Any nutritional damage that happens within this period is irreversible and will lead to poor brain development and physical growth, including stunting and wasting in children,” he said.
He reiterated UNICEF commitment to working with stakeholders to improve maternal and child nutrition in the state.
Hajiya Aisha-Ummi El-Rufa’i, wife of Gov. Nasir El-Rufa’i and Chairperson, Kaduna Nutrition Emergency Action Plan, thanked UNICEF for the support.
She said that mothers must be supported to exclusively breastfeed their children in the first six months and introduce adequate complementary feeding from six month up to two years.
She said that IYCF services would address the IYCF knowledge gap and basic nutrition; exclusive breastfeeding, proper and informed food selection for complementary feeding; personal, food and environmental hygiene practices among mothers and caregivers.
Mrs Sarah Kwasu, State Team Lead, Alive and Thrive (Fhi 360) urged the trained health workers to step down the IYCF training to other workers and collate adequate data on IYCF practice to improve planning.
Similarly, Ms Jessica Bartholomew, Secretary, Civil Society-Scaling Up Nutrition in Nigeria (CS-SUNN), commended UNICEF for the efforts and urged the state government to scale up IYCF intervention in the remaining LGAs.
Bartholomew also stressed the need for adequate provision for nutrition intervention in the state’s 2021 budget to ensure implementation of planned nutrition programmes to curb malnutrition. (NAN)