Stories by Hassan Zaggi
The Senate has advocated for the introduction ofwhat it christened Nigeria Fund for Nutrition in order to combatmalnutrition in the country.
This is even as the Vice President, Prof. YemiOsinbajo, has disclosed that since the inauguration of the National Council onNutrition in 2017, the federal and state governments have so far invested overN3.8 billion in nutrition, especially, the procurement of Ready to UseTherapeutic Foods (RUTF).
He made the disclosure at a virtual conference onnutrition with the theme-‘harnessing innovative financing options for nutrition-unravelling the bottleneck’.
The virtual conference wasorganized by Aisha BuhariFoundation in collaboration with the International Society of Media in PublicHealth (ISMPH).
The Vice President said: “In April 2016, afterthe review and adoption of the National Food and Nutrition Policy, thePresident inaugurated the National Council on Nutrition in 2017.
“The Council is charged with providing strategicdirection in ensuring coordinated and allowing programming and coordinatinginnovating financing and accountability for nutrition intervention.
“The Council has also approved a multi-sectoralplan.
“The administration has also ensured progressiveincreases in budgetary allocations for nutrition activities across the country.
“There has been an increased investment of about3.8 billion naira in nutrition by federal and state governments, especially,for the procurement of RUTF.”
He disclosed that some things the government hasdone to improve nutrition include: “The revatilisation of the primaryhealthcare system with nutrition as a primary focus and the promotion ofoptimum breast feeding with full quality of complementary foods.
“Social investment programme, particularly, ourhome grown feeding programme for public primary schools that currently feedswell over 9m children across 34 states and the FCT, serving one nutritious mealeveryday.”
On his part, the Chairman, Senate Committee onHealth, Senator Ibrahim Oloriegbe, advocated for the establishment of whathe christened ‘Nigeria Fund for Nutrition.’
“We need to agree on a specific fundingmechanism for nutrition that will be multi sectoral and will be public pillage.
“I want to suggest for a kind of establishment ofa
Nigeria Fund for Nutrition that will work likeother global mechanism that look at specific subject.
“I want to suggest that currently, what we haveour focus has been on budgetary allocation to the health or either to nutritionspecific or look at what are the government budget under non specific nutrientintervention.
“I want a situation where we have from themultisectoral perspective, a public private funding mechanism where we will beable to guarantee the government sector will have a better coordination of whatis coming from the private sector. I think we can work out this.”
Speaking, the Wife of the President, AishaBuhari, lamented that despite concerted efforts made by the government, Nigeriastill records millions of children suffering and even dying from one form ofmalnutrition or the other.
Represented by the wife of the Vice President,Dolapo Osinbajo, Mrs Buhari further regretted that Nigeria has second largestnumber of stunted children in the world that will never be able to have anoptimally productive life at all levels.
“This will be disservice because tomorrow, we maynever have competent young adult in the nation- in government, business,academia and other segment.
“We are not going to stop having conversationaround malnutrition until we have reduce the scourge of malnutrition affectingour children and secure our vulnerable Nigerians who are at risk; until wecreate systems where our children can survive and poses the needed cognitiveability to handle the future.
“We will only stop when our communities understandthe need to adopt proper method of young child feeding practices; when ourgovernments at all levels back up their commitments by funding nutrition byensuring allocations and interventions are duly executed.
“We will only stop when the private sectorrealizes that no business can truly succeed without investment in the future ofthe nation.”
She, however, noted that: “We have made someprogress in the recent years, especially, having stakeholders talking aboutmalnutrition and getting more nutrition sensitive budget at both the nationaland state levels.”
On his part, the Minister of Health, OsagieEhanire, noted that there is a clear relationship between malnutrition andunderdevelopment of a country as its affects the wellbeing of a people; it drainsthe nation of quality human capital and hinders economic and socialdevelopment.
He, however, noted that investing innutrition is a cost effective driver of development and prosperity because itenables children to grow to their full potential and it triggers positivesocial and economic changes.
Ehanire lamented that: “Nigeria,unfortunately has the highest number of stunted children below age 5 in Africaand the second highest in the world. Its stunting and wasting rates of 37 and 7per cent respectively.
“The proportion of children exclusively breastfedfrom birth to 6 months of age is only 29 per cent while 12 per cent of women ofthe 15 to 49 years child bearing age also suffer from acute malnutrition.”
On the efforts of his ministry, the healthminister said: “The Federal Ministry of Health is committed to fightingmalnutrition in all forms and government spending in nutrition has increasedover the years with 1.8 billion spent over the last two years on RUTF to treatchildren with Severe Acute Malnutrition at over 2000 sites of CommunityManagement of Acute Malnutrition in 26 states of the federation. “
He called for private sector involvement in thefight against malnutrition through investment in infrastructure, mobilise extraresources, produce nutritional commodities like RUTF, train health workers andmuch more.