By Hassan Zaggi
Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) under the leadership of Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and the International Society of Media in Public Health (ISMPH), have called on political parties to make the issue of child malnutrition topmost in their programmes when they assume office after the 2019 general elections.
It is estimated over 2.5 million children in Nigeria under-5 years suffer from Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) annually. This, experts say, exposes nearly 420,000 children under-5 to early death from common childhood illnesses including diarrhoea, pneumonia and malaria.
Speaking when the CSOs’ delegations visited Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), the Head of Monitoring and Evaluation of CISLAC, Lovelyn Gabriel Agbo, reiterated that no Nigerian child should be allowed to be malnourished, let alone talking about the treatment.
Explaining the rationale behind the campaign to political parties, she said: “This is political season and in less than a month, we will be having the presidential elections.
“We want to bring to the attention of the political parties the issues surrounding malnutrition because they have a great influence on who represents the party and what happens after the election.
“It is very important for them to, at this point, understand these issues so that they can have it as part of their agenda and social services they want to give to Nigerians, especially, their plan on how to end malnutrition. They cannot do this if they do not understand the gravity of the problem. That is why we have decided to go to the political party offices.”
Speaking while receiving the CSOs’ delegation at the campaign office of the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the Director, Communication Strategy of Atiku Campaign Organisation, Bolaji Abdullahi, noted that the candidate of the PDP, Atiku Abubakar, has great concern for the wellbeing of Nigerian children.
According to Abdullahi: “We have similar agenda and we share similar view about our children. We know that His Excellency, Atiku Abubakar, has continuously maintained that Nigeria’s biggest assets are his children and if you don’t feed children properly, you cannot hope to educate them.
“The issue of feeding children, is not just a matter of health, it is also a matter of developing the cognitive capacity, so, if we do not feed our children properly, we should not hope that they will learn.
“I want to assure you on behalf of our party- the PDP and His Excellency, Atiku Abubakar, that this remains a priority to us and by God’s grace when we form government, we will work with you to ensure that malnutrition is no longer an issue in Nigeria.”
However, when the delegation visited the headquarters of the All Progressive Congress (APC), it was prevented from entering the premises and there was no representative to receive the document from the delegation.
There was, however, a mild drama when the CSOs insisted to get an official of the party to receive the child malnutrition document, the security man on duty insisted that the officials of the party were in Kaduna for a campaign rally, hence, no one will receive the document.
Speaking on the next line of action after visiting four political party offices, the Head of Monitoring and Evaluation of CISLAC, Lovelyn Gabriel Agbo, said: “We will then follow them up after they have assumed office based on the promises they have made to Nigerians, especially, in the area of health and nutrition. We will keep tracking on how they are going about it.”
The political parties visited included the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN) whose candidate is Ezekwesili, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) where Atiku Abubakar is the candidate, Alliance for a New Nigeria (ANN), where Fela Durotoye is the candidate and All Progressive Congress (APC), where the President, Muhammadu Buhari is the candidate.