The social security programme started by a non-governmental organisation by which indigent women in Jigawa state were being assisted would be sustained even after the NGO winds up. BAYO MUHAMMAD ALABIRA reports.
The issue currently bothering residents of Jigawa state now is how far the unconditional cash grant transfer programmme sponsored by a non-government organisation, Action Against Hunger (AAH) can to be sustained long after the end of the programme in the three selected local government areas of the state such that there would be no hindrances.
The crux of the matter is that the programme has been sponsored by the NGO for the past six years in Jigawa and Zamfara states. To that extent, the fear is that if the programme comes to an end in these states, what will be the fate of pregnant mothers and their new born babies? Can their lives be saved from severe acute malnutrition, maternal and child mortality which used to be so devastating before the intervention of this NGO?
The assurance of sustainability
However, the immediate past deputy governor of the state, who is the current senator representation Jigawa North-East Senatorial zone, Senator Ibrahim Hassan, has allayed the fear. He said the programme is far from being terminated, saying that already, both the people and the state government have taken the programme seriously. He was reacting after being shown the stunting figure of malnourished children in the state by this NGO, which is the highest in the country.
Senator Hassan, who spoke recently at the ‘Child Development Grant Programme’ (CDGP), said the programme would be more than sustained in the state. He assured pregnant mothers and their babies that the programme has come to stay in Jigawa especially with the commitment the state government has made both in cash and kind.
He therefore advised that people should not fear about returning to the days of sorrow, saying the programme would continue to be piloted by the state government with a view to saving more lives of rural women and their babies. He pointed out that AAH has been shouldering the responsibilities of giving raw cash of N4,000.00 to each pregnant woman and breast-feeding mother for the past six years and would be sustained.
He announced that already N4 billion has been set aside to assist the same programme, saying the state government has increased the money used to fight the menace of child stunting from N15 million to N75 million monthly and from 42,000 beneficiaries to over 100,000 beneficiaries. He equally appeased the minds of those already mystified to be rest-assured because it has translated from a supported programme to a Nigerian programme.
In a nutshell, he said CDGP and Working to Improve Nutrition in Northern Nigeria (WINNN) as well as Social Protection, Save the Children Programme (SCP) have been domesticated in the state. Therefore, the three local government areas of Buji, Gagarawa and Kirikassama selected for the pilot programme were in high sense appreciation. This was where the pregnant and breast-feeding women had benefited immensely from the raw cash of N4,000.00 in the past.
In the past
Experts from Action Against Hunger (AAH) opined that before the child cash grant transfer interventions programme, the situation of child stunting in the state was devastating, especially in the rural areas where the awareness about the pregnant mothers and child nutrition was completely absent. The story then was that whenever a child was in bad stunting stage, instead of trying to improve on the diet, the parents ignorantly resort to patronising local witch-crafts for remedies.
According to experts from the AAH who handled the CDGP for six-years, he said it was the United Kingdom Department for International Development-funded programme from 2013 to 2019. The programme, he said, was implemented in two northern states of Zamfara and Jigawa within this period. It was also said to have been designed to address widespread child diseases, poverty, hunger, and malnutrition that affected the large scale children and made the new born babies’ survival nearly impossible in some remote areas. The experts disclosed that saving the lives of children is the same thing as protecting the lives of the entire nation. They explained that the general indices from the north are still very high. North west, they noted, is 89% while Jigawa state, in particular, is 66% which is the highest in the whole country. They said whenever they provide cash to the women, they also provide knowledge on breast-feeding as well as other body-building food items that can help the pregnant women and those breast-feeding.
In view of this, they experts further stressed that the cash transfer is given from the time a woman is conceived to the time she delivers her baby. He said the sum of N11 billion has been spent on about 93,000 women, 85,000 babies in the 16,000 communities selected across the country. He disclosed that during the treatment, communities were divided into several segments for easy assessment and identification so that there would be no outsider in the selected areas.
“Transfers were scheduled to begin during pregnancy and last until the child turns two years old thereby targeting the first 1,000 days of the child’s life. Alongside the cash transfer, communities in the programmes were provided with education and advice about nutrition and health through various lectures given to them in their rural areas. The combination of regular cash transfers and targeted SBCC was expected to contribute to improved food security and the adoption of beneficial practices and behaviours to support better maternal and child health in the rural areas,” they said.
The experts further explained to the audiences on how the programme was expected to reduce the malnutrition in the selected local government areas as well as in the selected communities in these LGAs even before it was started. It said that the overall aim of the CDGP was to improve child nutrition and maternal health through the monthly cash transfer to each pregnant and breast-feeding woman. The cash is expected to increase the income of the beneficiary household and the women over the use of the fund.
To this end, it was also said that women generally are happy over the control of the token of money given to them. This is because they decide how it would be spent by them. The women themselves have power over their budgets, buying of food, vegetables and other items that are considered necessary for pregnant mothers and their babies.
According to the experts, in the past, out of ignorance, mothers used to squeeze the first milk out of their breast before breastfeeding their newly born babies. Unknown to them, that first milk has more body building and body defense mechanism that can protect the new born against any infection.
Beneficiaries share their story
Narrating her experience, one of the beneficiaries, Jararatu Iyasu Gagarawa, said the benefits she derived from the programme are much. “Before I met Action Against Hunger, I gave birth to a male child and because I used to give him not only water but additional concoction, the child died. But now, I was taught to be breast-feeding my child without water for six months. Again, I used the cash I received every month to do some businesses by selling sugar, rice, soaps, and other petty trading. Since then, my husband could not travel out in search of greener pasture in the cities like he used to do before the program started.”
Another beneficiary, Binta Suleiman Magazu from Zamfara, on her own, appealed to both the federal and the state governments to continue sponsoring the programme especially now that AAH has closed its shop to the two states. “We need serious help especially in Sahe LGA because there many orphans, widows that need to be assisted. I stopped giving my children water before six months after the first one died for being given water and other concoction.”
Present at the event were Ramatu B Aliyu, acting national program manager CDGP and Stella Esedunme CDGP project manager against hunger. Others were Lucy Chizo Goudjo advocacy manager as well as Luke Harman, senior social protection advisor from the UK and representatives from Jigawa state government.