• Nigeria can stop being the country with the highest burden of under-nutrition – US Envoy

By Enock Reuben, Abuja –

The Federal Government of Nigeria through the Federal Ministry of Health in alliance with United States Agency for International Development (USAID) recently launched the National Nutrition Policies, Strategies and Guidelines as a measure to alleviate malnutrition and its annihilating effects on Nigerian.

The documents according to the honourable Minister of Health, Dr. Osaige Ohanire give strategic, direction on effective and high nutrition interventions that will ensure proper and sufficient nutrition for mother and children.

Speaking at the official launch of the Nutrition Policies, the minister of health who was represented at the launch by the Director Head, Family Health Department of the Ministry, Dr. Salma Ibrahim Anas, said the documents provide strategic direction and guidance on effective implementation of evidence based cost-effective and high impact nutrition interventions to ensure adequate nutrition for everyone in Nigeria particularly mother and children.

He said, “The Federal Ministry of Health provides leadership and strategic policy direction for nationwide implementation of nutrition activities for targeted results. To achieve this, several national nutrition policy documents were developed and reviewed in collaboration with partners and stakeholders in line with the Sustainable Development Goals, SDG, World Health Assembly, WHA, Africa Union, AU and NSHDP II nutrition targets.

“According to NDHS, stunting children under 5 years is 37%, wasting 7.2%, iron deficiency anemia is 68%, while anemia in women of reproductive age is 61%.

“The Federal government of Nigeria remains committed to the improvement of the nutrition status of the populace and the government recognizes that eradicating malnutrition will yield substantial economic, social and human capital development benefits. This requires concerted efforts from the government at all levels, partners and all relevant stakeholders.

“With the support of the World Bank Group, investment in nutrition was prioritized through multi-sectoral ANRIN projects domiciled in the FMOH, other federal implementing entities, and twelve states.

“The project is focused on increasing the utilization of quality, cost effective services for pregnant and lactating women, adolescent girls and children under 5 years of age. It is expected that the gains of this investment in the coming years will set the trajectory for and indeed result in significant reduction in the stunting rate in Nigeria.

“This necessitates policy direction for implementation of nutrition activities across the country, which is provided by the Federal Ministry of Health,” he added.

Osagie urged all actors – government; implementing partners, donors, private sector and all nutrition stakeholders to continue to support the Federal Government to ensure that these documents are judiciously utilized at all levels.

The Minister directed that all the states across the federation should domesticate and adopt the documents to ensure that they are implemented accordingly. The six documents were presented to representatives of the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory.

However, Chief Nutritionist with the U.S Agency for International Development, USAID, Shawn K. Baker stated that for effective implementation of the policies, strategies and guidelines, the need for the political will of the government is highly needed.

Baker said that “to really address malnutrition, we need to move from just the technical issues to a high lot of priority. We need to bring together key sectors, particularly the food sector, the health sector and our humanitarian response in a way that is going to address most of the need for nutrition for mothers and their children”.

“In the US, at the global level, we are grateful to congress for stepping up to the current crisis and appropriating supplemental funding to both our humanitarian assistance budgets and out development budgets.

“We are using this funding to respond to the immediate crisis as well as further strenthen system to be able to face down such crisis in the future. We also recognize that our resources are still far too little to meet the needs and are advocating for government partners, our donor partners, our philanthropic partners and private sector to step up and do more.

“We are fortunate that our mission in Nigeria is receiving $55 million of this funding to support the government’s efforts to address food insecurity and the growing burden of child wasting.”
He said, although there are policies and systems in place, adequate financing and implementation guides that will translate these policies into the level of coverage needed for intervention is paramount.

Baker further stated that, it will be a great achievement, if Nigeria, being the giant of Africa, is liberated from the scourge of malnutrition.

In his conclusion Baker expressed confidence that with renewed political commitment by the Federal Government and the states of the federation, Nigeria can rise to the current long term challenge and move from being the country with the highest burden of under-nutrition to a better one that is free from the malnutrition problems.