By Hassan Zaggi
Child malnutrition is a serious threat to the all-round growth of any nation. That is why serious nations confront head-long anything that may affect the nutrition status of their children.
Acute child malnutrition has reached an alarming state in Nigeria. It has dominated discussions in Nigeria since the past few years. In fact, the situation was aggravated by the security challenges in the north eastern part of the country.
Findings reveal that an estimated 2.5 million Nigerian children under-5 suffer from Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) annually.
This, the findings showed, is exposing nearly 420,000 children under-5 to early death from common childhood illnesses such as diarrhoea, pneumonia and malaria.
Concerned by this development, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) led by Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) have decided to take the advocacy to political parties.
The wisdom behind the advocacy by the CSOs is to present to the leadership of the political parties the facts and the danger pose by acute child malnutrition to enable them take the needed steps to address the root causes when they eventually come to power after the 2019 elections.
The first port of call by the CSOs was the headquarters of the All Progressive Grant Alliance (APGA).
CISLAC was represented by its Nutrition Officer, Mohammed Murtala, who presented advocacy note on prevention of Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) in Nigeria to the leadership of APGA.
The document, a copy which was made available to The AUTHORITY, exposed the unfavourable indices of acute malnutrition from states of the country most affected by the menace.
The CSOs in the document, therefore, called on the APGA to, among other things, amplify the importance of adequate nutrition status through enhanced education and awareness programmes, and food security, while institutionalising appropriate nutrition governance and accountability structure in the country to enhance accountability for nutrition interventions.
It also called on the party to: “Ensure local government autonomy to ensure full financial independence in the management of Primary Health Care systems for transparency and accountability to promote adequate and sustainable coverage of nutrition interventions in the country; prioritize the establishment of Community Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) programmes in the state through existing policies implementation, adequate budgetary allocation, timely release, cash backing and utilization of funds and oversight activities.
“Expand the existing CMAM programmes to additional prioritized Local Government Areas in various states for adequate coverage and timely intervention is paramount across the states.
“Strengthen relevant Committees at National Assembly and State Houses of Assembly with special focus on nutrition to give desired attention to malnutrition with adequate and sustainable provision of resources to Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Foods (RUTF), routine drugs and complimentary commodities and Ensure full implementation of Child Right Act to effect adequate nutrition status as a child right.”
Responding to questions from journalists on the rationale behind the advocacy, CISLAC Nutrition Officer, Mohammed Murtala, said: “Before now, we have been engaging other stakeholders about funding for nutrition, we discover that it has not been very fruitful in terms of getting stakeholders to do the needful in funding nutrition appropriately.
“We felt that there is this opportunity that has presented itself before us- the 2019 election. We felt that there is the need for us to engage political parties to mainstream nutrition agenda in their manifestoes.”
Responding, APGA National Director of Publicity,
Ifanacho Okuejofo, applauded the CSOs for the advocacy, insisting that his party will partner with the CSOs to ensure its implementation.
According to him: “Any child that is not properly grown affects the society.
“You are welcome because we are going to partner with you. This is the party of the progressives, party of the masses, of the almajiris and the poor.
“What you are doing is a welcome development. Our party will partner with you because if Nigeria is developed it is for everyone of us.
“Our party does not mind the religion or the tongue you speak. We must partner together and build a better society for our children. This is because the moment you did not get it right at the basic level, practically there is no way we can get it right,” he noted.