By Philip Yatai
Kaduna – The National Orientation Agency (NOA) in collaboration with the UN Children’s Educational Fund (UNICEF) is partnering with the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) to tackle malnutrition in Kaduna State.
Malam Lawal Haruna, the NOA Deputy Director in Kaduna State, who is UNICEF’s focal person in the agency, disclosed this to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Kaduna on Thursday.
Haruna said with the partnership, corps members serving in Kaduna State would be mobilised and trained to promote maternal, adolescent, infant and young child feeding to reduce maternal and child malnutrition.
He said the corps members would be trained on basic concept of nutrition and would be educated on the nutritional status of women and children across the communities where they would carry out their primary assignments.
Haruna said they would equally be trained as drama facilitators and would be supported to identify stakeholders and community volunteers they could work with in entrenching good nutritional habits in Kaduna communities.
According to him, the corps members will play a key role of identifying and mobilising community members, and community volunteers for the promotion of adequate maternal, adolescent, infant and young child feeding practice.
“They will also be expected to divide the community volunteers into drama groups, and train the volunteers on how to use drama to mobilise and improve community members’ knowledge on good nutrition,” he said.
Haruna said the activity would be carried out in 10 selected local government areas of the state namely – Jaba, Jema’a, Kaduna North, Kaduna South, Kachia, Igabi, Chikun, Kajuru and Makarfi and Lere.
The NOA boss said mobilising the corps members was crucial to winning the war against malnutrition in the state, stressing that the youths had always been the arrow head of progressive change in societies.
“This is because the youths are very energetic and form the engine room for any progressive movement as the most vibrant and active segment of the society and on whose shoulders lay the future of every society.
“We have already addressed about 1, 000 corps members currently in camp on the issue and they are enthusiastic to participate as facilitators in promoting good maternal adolescent, infant and young child feeding.
“We will be meeting them at zonal levels to give them drama orientation for effective community engagement through Theatre for Development (TFD) and other dialogue sessions,’’ Haruna said.
UNICEF Nutrition Specialist, Kaduna Field Office, Chinwe Ezeife, said working with the corps members would help to curb the prevalence of malnutrition and reduce maternal and child deaths.
“Early initiation of breastfeeding in Kaduna State is 38.6 per cent, while practice of exclusive breastfeeding is as low as 6.2 per cent and a minimum dietary diversity of 44.5 per cent.
“These, among other factors were responsible for the high level of underweight children under the age of five, which stood at 34 per cent and stunted children at 37 per cent.
“If nothing is done, eight per cent of under-five children in the state are more likely to die of severe acute malnutrition before their fifth birthday,” she said.
Ezeife expressed optimism that much would be achieved with the corps members on board in promoting good nutritional habit as part of their national service in their various communities of primary assignment.