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Babies suffer from malnutrition because their mothers cannot afford exorbitant price of food

20 July 2023
Reading time: 3 minutes

A lactating mother needs nutritious food to produce enough breast milk to feed her newborn – but, with the exorbitant price of food, some mothers are struggling and are feeding their babies pap instead.

Falmata Ali, who is trying to breastfeed a seven-month-old baby, said: “I live in the Kawar Mailah community IDP camp in Maiduguri. It’s a struggle for both me and my baby because I don’t have enough breast milk to feed him.

“Food is so expensive, we eat only once a day now and I do not produce enough breast milk. I was admitted to hospital last month and the doctor told me my son had malnutrition. Because my husband is not around – he is on the farm – I insisted that we be discharged because there was no one to look after my other children. My baby boy is still not healthy.”

She said she had managed to breastfeed her other five children for almost 18 months without any problems.

“At that time we were getting support from humanitarian organisations and had three meals a day. Now we thank God if we have any food to put in our mouths.”

Hafsat Umar’s baby is almost 19 months old but to look at her you would say she is not even a year old.

“She is tiny. We have never struggled so much before. It has been an extremely hard year. The cost of just one bowl of maize is ₦1,200. Where will we get enough money to buy food at that price? I cannot produce enough breast milk to feed her. Sometimes we go to bed with empty tummies. I’m trying to wean her but it is difficult.”

Hauwa Muhd ​​said she had breastfed all her children for up to two years. But, because of the high food prices, she was not able to breastfeed her four-month-old baby boy.

“When he was just 40 days old, I began to feed him pap [kunu]. The longer a baby is breastfed, the better. He will feel full. But now when he starts sucking, he just cries and cries because I do not have enough breast milk.

“That’s why I started to give him pap so he will feel satisfied. But sometimes I cannot afford to buy the flour for the pap and have to borrow from my neighbour. Right now my baby has diarrhoea.”

Yakime Gado, a midwife at the GRA clinic, said: “Breastfeeding mothers need nutritious food to produce lots of milk. But these days food is so expensive that many mothers cannot afford to buy what they need. I would suggest, as an alternative, that they make kunu pap which their babies can drink and it will full their tummies.

“Women should not just sit at home and wait for their husbands to return from the farms to provide food. They should try to find work in people’s houses or start a small business to bring in money.

“Some women use the little money they have to buy home decorations. Instead, they should buy food for themselves so that they can produce enough milk to feed their babies. They should do everything in their power to keep their babies well fed and healthy.”


About the author

zainab alhadji ali