Nuru Nigeria is addressing malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies for vulnerable pregnant women and children in northeast Nigeria.
Vitamin Angels is partnering with Nuru and the Adamawa State Primary Health Care Development Agency, for the third year in a row through donations of Vitamin A, Albendazole supplements, and prenatal vitamins and minerals (MMS supplements).
Vitamin A–important for healthy eyes, strong immune systems, and healthy skin–is a common deficiency among children living in extreme poverty. Without Vitamin A, a nutrient not naturally produced by the human body, children are at-risk for blindness and a variety of illnesses. Children that receive supplements not only have a greater likelihood of survival, but they also have stronger immune systems. Ensuring at-risk children receive “two doses of vitamin A supplements a year is a proven way to prevent childhood blindness and increase survival rates up to 24%” (Vitamin Angels).
Intestinal parasites also pose a significant risk to children facing extreme poverty, as they may have little to no access to clean water or facilities with modern plumbing. While children are at the greatest risk for parasites, they are also the least able to access the necessary deworming supplements needed. Thus, Albendazole, a deworming supplement, is crucial for children in northeast Nigeria, as it kills parasites that prevent the body from absorbing vitamin A and other necessary nutrients.
Prenatal Vitamins and Minerals (MMS)
To support the development of healthy babies and healthy pregnancies, Vitamin Angels supplies MMS supplements. These supplements support fetal growth and healthy birth weight while preventing anemia, and they are vital for both the mother and the growing baby.
When Peninah, a mother in northeast Nigeria, was pregnant with her first child, she didn’t have access to prenatal vitamins, and the food she was able to access didn’t meet the nutritional requirements for both herself and her growing baby. She describes the first pregnancy as very difficult and credits much of this to the lack of appropriate vitamins and minerals needed to sustain her pregnancy. Following the delivery of her son, Peninah was routinely at the hospital with him, as he had a weakened immune system from malnutrition.
Peninah’s story is representative of many other mothers in the region. To satisfy the increased needs of a mother and fetus during pregnancy, a carefully balanced and nutritious diet must include an adequate supply of calories, protein, vitamins, and minerals. The typical local diet is insufficient. Without vitamin supplementation and deworming, pregnant women and children in fragile regions of northeast Nigeria face nutrient shortages and malnutrition.
How Nuru Nigeria Supports Vulnerable Mothers and Children
Nuru Nigeria and its collaborators have trained 18 health workers from nine rural communities in order to make health services more accessible. Health workers are trained to assist with baby and early child feeding while also offering counseling on nutrition, permagardens, disease prevention, and hygiene. Furthermore, health workers provide support in connecting individuals to needed healthcare services. Through these efforts, health workers have supported increased breastfeeding and malnutrition prevention among vulnerable families. Peninah is one of the program participants.
Peninah’s second pregnancy shifted her perspective on both pregnancy and child development. By the time she became pregnant with her second child, Vitamin Angels supplements were available in her community through Nuru Nigeria’s distribution efforts, and she was able to access the micronutrient supplements for pregnant women. Peninah’s pregnancy was without issue, and the delivery was smooth. The difference in the health of each of her newborn children at the time of birth is striking to Peninah, as her second child has a noticeably stronger immune system and has only needed to return to the doctor for routine check-ups and immunizations.
Investing in Women and Children: An Ongoing Commitment
Due to traditional and religious systems, women and children in northeast Nigeria frequently have little voice in communal affairs and have limited access to resources for health and education, and malnutrition has disproportionately impacted children and pregnant women. Investing in the health of those most vulnerable in northeast Nigeria is vital to addressing the impacts of extreme poverty. Nuru Nigeria remains committed to women and children and will work with the Adamawa State Primary Health Care Development Agency again this year to ensure the Vitamin Angels donation is distributed to those who need it most.