Spreading the Word on Malaria Prevention: A Story You Must READ!

Jamani has been very faithful as our clerk in the office. One day, I engaged him in a discussion and discovered that his family lives back in the village. He has two daughters and a son. He travels frequently to his village to see his family.  He told me how he nearly lost his four year old son to malaria the last time he travelled home.

So when he told me he was travelling, I decided to get him two Insecticide Treated Nets. He was not at his duty post when I brought the nets and I decided to leave them with one of his colleagues.

Jamani ran to my office after he got the nets. With a smile on his face he thanked me almost prostrating. Innocently he said to me, ‘my father’s fishing business will definitely take a new turn. Thank you so much sir, I would not ordinarily have thought I should buy him nets for his fishing.’ Surprised, I took him aside and explained to him that the nets were not fishing nets but Insecticide Treated Nets, meant to prevent mosquito bites and consequently prevent malaria.

I educated him that Malaria causes fever and deaths among children below 5 years of age. I also shared with him the benefits of the net as follows: it reduces contact with mosquitoes; cost less than treatment of malaria; reduces sickness and death in children by reducing occurrence and severity of malaria. I made him to understand that children and pregnant women are to be made to sleep under the nets, which must be treated as recommended by the manufacturer.

Finally, I told him that when he gets to the village, he should lead his household to drain stagnant water and ensure the environment is kept clean always.

He left my office elated and promised to do all we have discussed.

How many of us have used the ITN? I must say that the net is not only for villagers. Folks in the urban areas must also take advantage of it as a viable, affordable and effective strategy against malaria.

Spread the word about Malaria.

Have an INSPIRED Day.

Think the Child! Think Today! Think the Future!

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This particular weekend, my parents were out of town and my unhealthy health practices, particularly lack or respect for WASH had taken their due toll on me. I think I was about 12 years old. I was down with cholera from Friday. I was vomiting and going to the toilet at the same time. I did not have appetite for food and the little that was left in me was being discharged through my mouth and anus rapidly.

My parents returned on Sunday and met me almost lifeless. They rushed me to the hospital and the doctor said if they had brought me five minutes later, I would have been history.  What I went through is called Diarrhoea, defined by 3 or more loose stools per day. It causes dehydration or lack of water in the body of children, if untreated can kill.


The Health worker taught my mum how to manage Diarrhoea at home, which is called ORAL REHYDRATION SALTS/ SALT SUGAR SOLUTION and is prepared as follows:

–        Mix salt-sugar solution and feed child frequently to replace lost water in the body.

–        2 large Coke bottles (1000mls) of clean water and 1 level teaspoon salt and 10 level sugar(5 cubes).

–        the child is to be taken to a health worker if diarrhoea does not stop or child becomes weak after.

Due to my personal experience I got interested in learning about diarrhoea and I have the following written in my diary:

–        High incidence of Diarrhoea- 18.8%; one of the worst in Sub-Sahara Africa and above the average of 16%.

–        Diarrhoea is the largest cause of child mortality in Nigeria (after malaria) and is responsible for 16% of Child deaths every year.

Hmmm…I also identify very well with this story. I am witness to the fact that ORT works for adults as much as it works for children. Few years ago, I was home alone with my adult younger sister. In the dead of the night, at about 2.00AM, she began to vomit and visited the toilet frequently. I prepared ORT. She began to take it and the vomiting and stoolling stopped. She later slept soundly. She woke up in the morning hale and healthy and proceeded to work.

I am wondering if we did not have at our disposal the ORT wisdom, an avoidable case could have become a fatal one.

Have an INSPIRED day. Think the Child ! Think Today! Think the Future.

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Today was very busy in the office.

Since I was home alone, I knew I was too tired to cook. Yet I was hungry. I am an ardent lover of roasted corn. I stopped by a corn roaster very close to my house to pick one and added to it coconut. I got home, washed the coconut, put the roasted corn inside the microwave for some minutes, rinsed plate from which I settled down and did justice to the queer delicacy.

As I was about to discard the old newspaper with which the corn and coconut were wrapped, I saw a story and it caught my attention. It was Next Newspaper of November 11, 2009, captioned, ‘Students sometimes use the bush.’ The report states in part, ‘in his four years in Birrel Avenue High school, Yaba, Chibuike Umeh, has dreaded using the school toilet because of its state.’ “It’s very messy,” he said. “Every time you go in, you must see urine on the floor, and sometimes you even see faeces on the floor. We usually urinate somewhere behind the (school) building, and when we have to do the main thing (defecate), we don’t sit on the bowl; even sometimes, some students do it on the floor.”


As I read the report and meditated on it, it became clear that the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) campaign does not have any breath of expression in most of our public schools and hospitals as there is no water to flush the toilet, not to talk of the user washing his or her hand.

I later remembered some of the things we learnt in a recent UNICEF meeting, where it was concluded as follows:

–        Most illness and deaths in children results from germs through food and water.

–        Frequent and proper hand washing with soap or ash and clean water kill and remove germs from hands.

–        We are to wash our hands before preparing food, before eating, after eating, before feeding baby, after using latrines, after cleaning and disposing the child’s faeces.

–        According to the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, ‘Hand Washing is the single most important means to keep from getting sick and to prevent the spread of infection.’

I relate very well to my last story. Let me share this with you: Hygiene was not part of the deal growing up. Though, as I grew older and attained independence, I got better. But I wasn’t interested in hand washing.

I did not see its importance until I got married. My wife would insist on hand washing, rinsing of already washed cutlery before we use and fruits before we eat. It was war. As she insisted, I began to practice hand washing and other hygiene measures she insisted on, though I did not fully comprehend why I should, considering my background, I did it religiously because my wife insisted.

Few years into our marriage, I was attending a training-the-trainer workshop on Child Rights Reporting at the United Nations House, Abuja, organized by UNICEF, there we treated a topic known as WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene). There I learnt the wisdom in hand washing. According to the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, ‘Hand Washing is the single most important means to keep from getting sick and to prevent the spread of infection.’ We were also informed that many children have been lost to poor hygiene practices. As we were being trained, I did not know when I shouted, ‘this is what my wife has been telling me o!’

I think it is high time we took hygiene serious by leading our children to embrace hand washing after the use of toilet, returning home after the day. We should also wash fruits before we consume and wash or rinse our cutlery before we use them.

Thank you for visiting today. I look forward to your comments.

Do have an INSPIRED day as I urge you to Think the Child! Think Today! Think the Future!

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Child Immunization: Exposing the Many Myths

Bada and Jeje are my next door neigbours. Today I have spent almost two early hours of my Saturday counseling both of them. It was the wife, who called my attention.

She got to know that I am interested in children matters, one day, when I rescued their ten year old first daughter from being maltreated by her. It was not a day I will forget in a hurry, but time will fail me to get into it now.

The issue was that the father claims to have just accepted a new faith that forbids immunization of children. I sat with them to explain that it is God that gave man the wisdom of medicine and immunization. I explained to them in simple terms that immunization is the administration of vaccines against some child hood killer diseases. That it protects children from some diseases that can cause illness and death.


I explained to them that for their child to be protected, she must take and complete all doses before one year. I convinced them that it is safe and given free. After my meeting with them I went back to my apartment to give them the Immunization Schedule Card we received in one of the UNICEF meetings we had attended on Key Household Practices. The card, which is tabulated under two headings (Diseases and Schedule) reads:

–        Tuberculosis- 1 dose at birth.

–        Diphtheria-   3 doses – 6, 10, 14 weeks

–        Whooping cough- 3 doses 6, 10, 14 weeks

–        Tetanus – 3 doses 6, 10, 14 weeks

–        Poliomyelitis-  4 doses at birth 6,10,14 weeks

–        Measles –  1 dose at 9 months

–        Hepatitis B  -3 doses at birth  6, 14 weeks

–        Yellow fever – 1 dose at 9 months

At the end of the meeting Bada apologized to his wife and agreed to follow her to the health centre on Monday.

I am glad this story end well. I wonder why people in the name of religion send children to early graves. Recently, immunization against Poliomyelitis had to be suspended in Pakistan as some religious bigots killed health officers, who were saddled with the responsibility of administering same. Hmmm…I fear for our world. It seems to me there is a gang-up against our children.

Think the Child! Think Today! Think the Future! Have an INSPIRED Weekend.

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Stories from the Diary of a Child Protection Specialist on KHHP: Children and Force Feeding.

I was in Akure, the capital of Ondo State to do plead the cause of the child. We were on break and I took a walk. I had not walked for five minutes when I saw a private Crèche, Nursery and Primary School. I would not have been attracted to it normally, if not that I saw a crowd of people, mostly women standing in front of the school and shouting, ‘bring her out. We say, ‘bring her out.’ We did not send her to force feed the child, this wicked witch.’


Tempted to feed my nose, I got close and stayed in front of the shop opposite to the school and asked the owner of the shop what the matter was. She sighed heavily and told me that an eight month old baby died, while she was being force fed by a care giver.  The care giver claimed that the child refused to eat so she decided to force her.

I was very sad! I stayed for a while in front of the shop and asked for sachet water, called pure water. I checked it to be sure it has NAFDAC number. I decided to sit for a while. As I sat and my head bowed, the pure water fell from my hand as tears streamed down my face.  The shop owner, tapped me gently and asked curiously, ‘oga you know them before, no be me tell you wetin happen.’

I slowly raised my head a bit, without looking up fully and said to her, ‘No, I am sad because the baby’s death was avoidable. That child did not died as a result of the ignorance of the care giver.’

I told her that it has been found that ‘feeding issues affect approximately 25-40% of children, from newborns to adolescents. Approximately 80% of children with developmental disabilities have a feeding problem. Feeding and swallowing problems are symptoms often associated with complex medical diagnoses.

I went further to explain to her that ‘force-feeding, defined as placing food into the child’s mouth without giving the child the clear opportunity to accept food independently or with instruction’ should not be used when a child does not show interest in feeding. Rather the parents should seek medical support. Working with Feeding Therapists, custodians of the child should attempt to use the techniques that are the least intrusive in feeding the child. They should go for treatment plans which encourage a ‘positive reinforcement component (such as praise or toy play), and they may also include other techniques, which do not allow children to end a meal by crying or turning away.

I told her a story reported by BBC world service in November 2011, which reads, ‘Gloria Dwomoh, a 31-year-old nurse from Walthamstow, London, was sent to prison for three years after being convicted of allowing or causing the death.  The 10-month-old, named in court as Diamond, was forced to take solid foods from the age of six months. She died in March 2010. The Old Bailey heard Diamond died from pneumonia caused by food in her lungs that had blocked her airways.’

I went further to use the opportunity to shed light on a child’s nutrition saying that I agree that a child from 6 months while continuing with breast feeding requires more than breast milk. He or she should start with semi solids to solid. I also know that early or late start of other foods may interfere with growth of the child.

I also agree that frequent small mix foods at a time – proteins-body building, carbohydrates-energy giving, fats and oils –energy and warmth, vegetables and fruits-protection are very good. The child should be given vitamin A- paw-paw, sugar, flour, carrots, liver, mangoes, palm oil; zinc- egg, meat and fish; iron- egg, meat, fish, liver, pumpkin, iodine- salt, onions, fish, leafy vegetables.

I told her that Vitamin A, which is given from 6-59 months will help good eye sight, protect from infection, iron will help formation of blood and mental alertness and iodine will help brain growth, mental and physical development, prevent goiter. I ended up saying that hands must be washed before and after preparation of the child’s food.

By the time I was through and raised up my head fully, the woman, already engrossed in our discussion was with pen and paper jotting down all I have said. As I stood up to take my leave, I asked the lady why she was writing, she told me she belongs to the drama department of her religious group and community and she would take it upon herself to ensure that the issues are depicted in their next presentation to their members.

My last today is very sad, yet very instructive. Growing up in the village force feeding was the order of the day. For many children, it was the accepted way of feeding in the community. I urge you to please help us spread the word. The impact in few cases immediate and in most cases long term.

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Stories from the Diary of a Child Protection Specialist on KHHP: BREAST FEEDING

Today I met Jane, a married and working nursing mother. We got talking and as a child- conscious fellow, I asked her views about breast feeding. Jane is quite informed about the issue of breast feeding and she is committed to the World Health Organisation’s recommendation of exclusive breast feeding from 30 minutes after birth to six months and supplemented breast feeding for two years. She is aware that the first yellow milk protects baby against infections. She knows that it is right to even breast feed even when baby is ill.

She however feels that a woman’s breasts may lose their firmness to breast feeding, but feels the advantages of breast feeding will make up for that. When asked Jane the benefits of breast feeding, she reeled out seven without blinking: it increases growth, reduces infection, helps mental development, it helps proper teeth and speech development, bonding, protects mother from breast cancer, affordable, available, free contamination.

I asked Jane to give me a description of how to position the child during breast feeding; she was very vivid in her description: The mother should be in good position with her back supported, the baby is brought to breast not breast to baby, areola (black part of breast) is put in baby’s mouth, the head, back, buttocks of the baby must be in straight line, the baby’s chin touches the breast  images

‘Great,’ I said, ‘how I wish that all mothers are as informed as you are Jane.’ When I asked, how do you know when the baby is satisfied when being breast fed, she answers confidently, they will come off when satisfied.

Satisfied with our discussion, like a well breast fed child, I thanked Jane for her time and was ready to take my leave. She sighed and said, can I ask you a question? I sat back and listened. Then Jane asked if the crusade for six month exclusive breast feeding would work for a working mother like her. Curious, I asked why? She responded that the duration of maternity leave in Nigeria, which is 3 months is a threat to the campaign. She further informed that in England maternity leave runs for six months with pay and another voluntary three months without pay.

Dear friend, what do you think about Jane’s fear? Is it far-fetched? It is real? Again do you think breast feeding makes a woman to lose the firmness of her breast? What do you think?

Thank you for joining me today…Think the Child! Think Today! Think the Future!

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Child Protection: Teaching Basic Key Household Practices Skills …Stories from the Diary of a Child Protection Specialist: BIRTH REGISTRATION

In my work, ‘CHILD PROTECTION IN AFRICA…62 Human and Social Threats YOU must KNOW, PREVENT & AVOID IN THE BEST INTEREST OF THE CHILD,’ I identified as the 28th Human and Social threat to child protection in Africa, THE KEY HOUSEHOLD PRACTICES IGNORANT. Submitted as follows: ‘the existence of this human threat was first revealed to me when I was attending a Training the Trainer Program at the United Nations House Abuja. One declaration at the training was that many more children die from childhood diseases more from lack of knowledge of Key Household Practices (KHHP) than from non availability of treatment or medical attention. Key Household Practices focuses on preventive measures and early intervention strategies, which every custodians of the life of the child must be aware of and be ready to practice as the situation demands. Many are around children today, who are not aware of these Key Household Practices, not to take of being prepared to use them or actually engage them when it is very crucial to the survival of the child. As I round up this part of the human threat, I will like to share with you the four categories of Key Household Practices follows:  The first GROWTH PROMOTION & DEVELOPMENT; the second is DISEASE PREVENTION; the Third is HOME MANAGEMENT; and the last is CARE SEEKING & COMPLIANCE.’

Still in the spirit of attacking this formidable human threat, I will be sharing with you 13 stories written to either inform or remind you of these Key Household Practices. This is not a series you can miss. This knowledge may be the saying tool for the life of your child in the days, months and years to come.

Join me today as I begin to share with you these stories.  I begin with birth registration

It is a rainy day and I felt the weather was not too friendly to me. As at the time I was leaving the office, there was no sign that It was going to rain and I did not take my umbrella with me. I had just alighted from the last bus stop to my house, when the rain began earnestly, I ran into the nearby shed. The shed belongs to a woman, who fries Akara, yam and sweet potatoes. As I stood there the discussion between the woman and another woman, I suspected to be her friend or neighbour caught my attention. The other woman was telling her that she has advised the younger woman in the community to avoid registering the birth of their children. She has also advised them that they may need to submit themselves to Traditional Birth Attendant to avoid their children being registered. As I listened to the woman, curiosity gripped me and I wanted to know why she was that committed to non-registration of birth.

Before I could ask any question, which she may not answer anyway, since I was not supposed to be part of the discussion, she went further to say ‘don’t mind auntie nurse, she doesn’t know what we have gone through in this land. By our tradition, it is an abomination for you to count your children. This is what birth registration means.’ She paused and said with an emotion laden voice, ‘have forgotten how I lost my twins before they were five within one week, after I registered their births contrary to the admonition of the gods?’

At this time the rain had stopped and the woman was about stepping out, when the other woman, who has been busy frying responded and said, ‘Mara, please give me two minutes. Let me attend to these customers, I have something to say.’ Done with the customers, she turned to her friend, ‘did you take the twins for immunization?’ ‘No,’ she responded sharply. ‘I don’t believe in the thinking that we should not register our children any more. People from the National Population Commission came to our community meeting last week to educate us on the need to register our children. They were invited by the Local Government Chairman. They taught us that child birth registration is done after birth free of charge by them and it is a right of the child to identity. We were also told that registering our children will enable government to plan for their health, education and all. They opened our eyes to other practices that could be killing our children. That was why I asked you if the twins were immunized.

At this time my diary was fully updated, I went home satisfied.

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