Nigeria plans strategy to address malnutrition

Cyril Okonkwo, Abuja.

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Nigeria’s Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo.

Nigeria is developing a national strategy to address malnutrition.

Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Hajia Zainab Ahmed, stated this on Tuesday after a meeting of the National Council on Nutrition, chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.

She said the National Council on Nutrition was put in place following the approval of National Policy on Nutrition by the National Economic Council, NEC.

Mrs. Ahmed said that the first structure that has been put in place to drive the policy is the National Council on Nutrition.

“We hope also to convince the states that they need to help at state level council for nutrition; local government level council for nutrition as well as community or ward level councils for nutrition,” she said, pointing out that “the problem is complex one; multi-faceted,” she said.

The minister explained that each of these councils would have a different mix of stakeholders to ensure that the problem was addressed from different phases.

Also speaking the Emir of Kano, who is a member of the National Council on Nutrition, Mohammed Sanusi II, said the council reflected the seriousness with which government was taking the issue of malnutrition.

He said the issue of malnutrition “is a major crisis,” requiring urgent steps to be taken solve it.

Sanusi said: “In Kano State alone, 58% of all the children under five suffer from chronic malnutrition; 17% of them have acute malnutrition. 48% of women of reproductive age have anemia.

“That leads to a very high infant mortality rate, maternal mortality rate.  Children die and we think it is a medical problem, but they die because they are malnourished.  And some of these are simple things like exclusive breast feeding for two years which is even prescribed by Islam.”

Communication strategy

According to Sanusi, the council would work on communication strategy and would also encourage the states to set up structures to deal with malnutrition.

“It’s all about communication; it’s about knowing the right diet; it’s about having access to education and access to nutritious food,” he said.

The Emir said that part of the strategy would also be to recruit the right personnel to work in implementing the nutrition policy of government.

He said the Minister of State for Budget and Planning presented a report at the meeting where she laid on the table “the enormity of this problem and the importance of acting quickly, having a budget, having a structure and having a commitment.”

He said the National Council on Nutrition would make presentations to NEC, and expressed hope that “this is the beginning of a much needed effort to address this problem.”

Officials from the ministries of health, agriculture, budget and national planning as well as development partners attended the meeting.