Media and health experts have expressed worry over the continuous rise in the cases of Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) with the north being the worst hit region in the country.
They made their feelings known at a Virtual Media Parley on National Nutrition Conference with the theme: “Harnessing Innovative Financing Options for Nutrition: The Role of the Media”, organized by the International Society of Media in Public Health (ISMPH) in collaboration with – Aisha Buhari Foundation (ABF), Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Network for Health, Equity and Development (NHED).
According to the National Nutrition and Health Survey (NNHS: 2018) on SAM, the North-East Geopolitical Zone is leading with 1.5% followed by the North-West with 1.4% and North-Central 1.0%, while a wide gap is noticed when compared to the Southern region with South-East having 0.3%, South-South 0.5% and South-West 0.5% respectively.
In a Paper Presentation titled Analysis Of Nutrition Situation In Nigeria: Funding and Logistics of RUTF, the Country Director NHED, Dr. Emmanuel Sokpo, described as disturbing the indices of Severe Acute Malnutrition in the country, where only twenty five percent of 2.6 million children under the age of five are on admission in Community Based Centres for the Management of Severe Acute Malnutrition, CMAM.
Dr. Sokpo disclosed that SAM reduces the cognitive ability of children, lowers their immunity thereby making them nine times more likely to die than well-nourished ones.
In a goodwill message, the Executive Secretary CS-SUNN, Mrs. Beatrice Oluaka stated that the theme of the parley was apt in consideration of the nation’s quest to strengthen the ability of media personnel and nutrition policy analysts to communicate agriculture, food security and nutrition policy issues in order to set innovative financing options as an agenda in the Nigerian policy space.
Representative of Aisha Buhari Foundation (ABF), Ms. Tessy Nonso Maina said ABF was working tirelessly with relevant stakeholders to ensure the return and subsequent release of the recently removed eight hundred million naira Federal Government’s 2020 budgetary allocation for nutrition.
The Executive Director ISMPH, Mrs. Moji Makanjuola who read the recommendations of the conference pointed out that it was observed that nutrition in the country is underfunded, and needed to be put in place to attract resources from the private sector.
The conference observed that malnutrition is a great concern in developing countries (Nigeria included), characterized by the poor implementation of the existing policies, low domestic funding and over reliance on foreign sources. It stressed need to scale up SAM treatment as well as finding innovative ways of funding nutrition such as local production of Ready to Use Therapeutic Food (RURF).
At the end of the conference the Executive Director, International Society of Media in Public Health (ISMPH) Mrs. Moji Makanjuola tasked journalists to venture into investigative journalism with a view to digging down issues around nutrition budget and releases of appropriated funds in various states across the country to ensure transparency and accountability.