▪︎Says delay in addressing malnutrition will impact GDP negatively
▪︎As nutritionist bemoans loss of 2.5 million lives to malnutrition
Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Prince Clem Ikanade Agba disclosed on Monday that about 50 percent of Nigeria’s children were dying silently as a result of malnutrition.
He made the disclosure while flagging off the 2020 Nutrition Campaign Week. The theme of the week is: “Nutrition the Bedrock for Economic Development.” The flag-off was consolidated with a joint ministerial press briefing.
According to him, “Nigeria’s food and nutrition situation and the attendant poor global image in terms of economic and development milestones are major concerns to the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning.
“This, among others, necessitated the desire to carry out a week-long ‘Nutrition Campaign Week’ conceived to serve as a platform for mobilizing nutrition stakeholders towards addressing the challenge of malnutrition, which has been termed ‘the silent killer’.”
According to the Minister, failure in addressing malnutrition has high costs in term of higher budget outlay as well as lost Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which he said made investment in nutrition a must do.
Agba regretted that, despite concerted efforts by the government in recent years, particularly in the areas of child nutrition and breastfeeding, malnutrition had remained a challenge which must be addressed through the implementation of innovative policies and strategies that were appropriately funded, data-driven, sustainable and optimized in terms of transparency and accountability for the efforts to yield the desired results.
He maintained that “the nation must also continue to work collaboratively across all levels of governments, and hand-in-hand with the private sector and development partners to tackle the menace.”
Agba said that “the menace has been further accentuated by the new global normal occasioned by the outbreak of COVD-19 pandemic with its attendant economic impact leading to food insecurity.”
He continued: “Nigeria is reported to have the second highest burden of stunted children in the world, with an estimated 2.5 million children under the age of 5 years suffering from severe acute malnutrition (SAM).”
According to him, “This is quite worrisome and calls for urgent measures to reverse the trend.”
He noted that “Over the years, this week-long annual event has proved to be a veritable platform for intensifying awareness on the importance of food and nutrition on child survival and its impact on development, productivity, economic growth and national development.
“This can be attested to by some of the achievements recorded in the past editions of the programme.
“Research has shown that investments in nutrition prevent undernutrition, build human capital, boost shared prosperity and improve health outcomes.
“Under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria has shown a clear commitment to the eradication of malnutrition through the adoption and domestication of policies and costed strategic plans, which emphasizes increased reliance on domestic funding; and a well-coordinated multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholders’ approach backed by sustained high-level political commitment.
“This is evident in Nigeria’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (2017-2020), a medium-term strategic plan aimed at investing in our people, diversifying the economy and restoring growth, which places critical emphasis on strategic multi-sectoral interventions to address food security and malnutrition.
“Owing to the importance the current administration places on child survival, nutrition is one of the key thematic areas in the Medium-Term National Development Plans (MTNDP 2021-2025 & 2026-2030) and the Nigeria Agenda 2050 presently being developed by our Ministry.”
Agba stated further: “Our emphasis has been on protecting the economy and funding the country’s healthcare needs with the COVID-19 response spurring necessary transformation and innovation in the fiscal space and beyond.”
A nutrition adviser in Abuja for Nutrition International, Dr Omotola Bamidele Davis, in a short narrative, titled : “How Nutrition can help in fighting Covid19”, said that aside from committing a crime and being sentenced to a jail term, Nigerian children were already imprisoned for life as a result of lack of nutrition.
According to him, “Nigeria contributes about 9.2 percent ti the population of stunted children globally, with more than 2.5million children being wasted yearly.”
Omotola urged the Federal Government to grant access to people on safe Nutrition foods, particularly for young children.
He further called on government to monitor the food system in the country and make sure what they produce is safe and affordable for the people.
He also urged Nigerians to patronise locally-made food.
Omotola stressed the need for key sectors to partner effectively the health, the agricultural sectors, WASH and others for improvement in the system, adding that all sectors could function effectively with adequate funding annually.