Born into hunger, saved by Magani Tamuwa

In northeastern Nigeria’s conflict-torn Borno State, the World Food Programme (WFP) provides fortified Plumpy’Sup — popularly called ‘Magani Tamuwa’ by Hausa-speaking nursing mothers — to combat moderate malnutrition among more than 250,000 children under five. Today, the initiative supported by a nine-million euro (US$10.2- million) contribution from the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) is making a difference.

by Adedeji Ademigbuji

Nursing mothers Rafiatu Mustapha and Tawakalitu Hassan, both internally displaced and living in Mala Kariri host community, wait to receive Plumpy‘Sup for their babies at a WFP food distribution center inside Mala Kariri Public Primary School compound. WFP/Adedeji ADEMIGBUJI

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria — Thick clouds appear ready to scold Maiduguri with another heavy downpour, just a day after this city was deluged by torrential rain.

But the waves of cold and the impending storm do not deter 23-year-old Aishat Abubakar from bringing her 12-month-old boy, Mohammed, to Mala Kariri primary school. In the expansive school compound, she and other nursing mothers receive the nutritional product Plumpy’Sup, popularly called Magani Tamuwa, or ‘malnutrition medicine’ in Hausa, to feed their malnourished babies.

Zainab Musa, 28, feeds Plumpy’Sup to her baby — even as her older son hopes for a bite. WFP/Adedeji ADEMIGBUJI
“You would cry if you had seen Mohammed five months ago,” Aishat says of her now thriving son. “I could not produce enough milk to feed him, but since WFP enrolled for this Tamuwa, he is now looking healthy.”

The eight-year Boko Haram insurgency has sharply increased hunger and malnutrition in northeastern Nigeria, where roughly 400,000 children are believed to be severely malnourished, according to the World Health Organization. Without urgent treatment, WHO estimates that one in five risks death.

Displaced mothers wait for WFP food assistance at Mala Kariri Primary School. WFP/Adedeji ADEMIGBUJI

But that bleak scenario is changing in areas where WFP and other humanitarian partners work, partly thanks to European Union support. Last month alone, EU funds allowed WFP to reach 250,000 children under two with nutritional support.

In Maiduguri and elsewhere where WFP and other humanitarian actors have intervened, child malnutrition has dropped from 30 percent a few months ago to less than 10 percent today, says WFP Nutrition Officer Martin Ahimbisibwe.

“And that’s because of the food assistance we’ve been providing, along with support from other humanitarian actors,” he adds.
Besides Plumpy’Sup, WFP also distributes a highly fortified blend of corn and soya to the most vulnerable people, notably pregnant and nursing mothers and young children living in the host community in Maiduguri’s Mala Kariri neighbourhood. WFP/Adedeji ADEMIGBUJI
Salamatu Musa, 25, internally displaced nursing mother living in Mala Kariri host community receives Plumpy ‘Sup for her 12-month-old baby girl, Hajara, at a food assistance distribution center inside Mala Kariri Primary School compound. WFP/Adedeji ADEMIGBUJI

A peanuty-tasting, power-packed product, Plumpy’Sup counts among the so-called ‘therapeutic’ foods WFP uses to treat moderate-acute malnutrition among children under five.

Aishat Abubakar’s son has bounced back to health since receiving food and nutritional assistance. WFP/Adedeji ADEMIGBUJI

For Aishat, the specialized supplement helped her son bounce back to health, after intense hunger all but dried up her breast milk.

The mother of five fled Baga-Kukawa, outside Maiduguri, after Boko Haram insurgents attacked her village in 2014. She and her family trekked for four days, before ending up in this city. Even here, malnutrition and hunger stalked them until they received WFP assistance.

Ramota Mohammed’s son has stopped crying at night since he started eating Plumpy ‘Sup. WFP/Adedeji ADEMIGBUJI

Another mother, Ramota Mohammed, 37, believes Plumpy’Sup saved her 11-month boy, Yunusa, from dying of severe malnutrition.

“He would cry all through the night, but since he started taking this food from WFP, he has recovered strongly,” says Ramota, a mother of nine. “Magana Tamuwa is a wonder.”
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