Nigeria has convened her first virtual National Nutrition Summit with theme “Harnessing Innovative Financing Options for Nutrition-unravelling the bottlenecks”. The Virtual meeting was convened by the wife of the President, Mrs. Aisha Buhari, through her pet project, Aisha Buhari Foundation, in collaboration with the International Society of Media in Public Health (ISMPH), in Abuja.
The keynote speaker, Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, said the Federal Government (FG) is committed to revitalizing Primary Healthcare Centers (PHCs) in the country alongside provision of nutrition services. He also pledged FG’s commitment to promoting exclusive breastfeeding and optimal complementary feeding. He revealed that the national budgetary allocation to nutrition is focused on fortification, transportation of nutrition products and behavioral change for improved nutrition outcomes.
According to the Vice President, the federal government is focused on a new Multi-Sectoral Plan of Action to tackle nutrition challenges in the country. “This is in a bid to restructure responses to nutrition. This plan is awaiting approval by the National Council on Nutrition”, he said.
The wife of the Nigerian President, Mrs. Buhari, represented by the Wife of the Vice-President, Mrs. Dolapo Osinbajo, said the Government and people of Nigeria are not oblivious of the nutrition situation in the country noting that there are key government officials who ensure that decisions on nutrition related issues are not delayed. She cited the National Council on Nutrition (NCN) chaired by the Vice President of the Federal republic of Nigeria, as one of such platforms that demonstrates Government’s commitment to prioritize nutrition.
“We have Policies at federal and state levels addressing various aspects of Nutrition as well. However, it is sad that despite these efforts, Nigeria still records millions of children suffering from one form of malnutrition or the other. Some even die from the most severe forms of malnutrition. Nigeria has the second highest number of children in the world who are too short for their age, and these stunted children may never be able to have an optimally productive adult life. “To ignore this is to mortgage our future, because tomorrow, we would not have competent young adults to run government, businesses or even the academia,” she said.
Also speaking, the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, said it is becoming increasingly necessary to involve the private sector to complement public sector efforts in nutrition in Nigeria. He reiterated the Health Ministry’s commitment to work continuously towards improving nutrition.
In a goodwill message, the Executive Secretary of CS-SUNN, Mrs Beatrice Eluaka, lamented that financing nutrition in Nigeria has been bedeviled with many challenges which should be addressed through innovative financing. In her words “Only 2 out of every 10 children suffering from Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) are reached with treatment. Investment in nutrition is not matched with the current reality of the problem”. She called on Government to return the funds for Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) that was removed from the budget and to create an enabling environment for local production of RUTF. According to Eluaka, “What we want to see as Civil Society is a Nigeria where everyone has food and is nutrition secured. We have to advocate and stimulate communities to scale up nutrition. Government needs to take urgent steps to prevent children from dying from malnutrition”.
Other participants who made remarkable contributions during the summit were Chairman, Senate Committee on Health, Sen. Ibrahim Oloriegbe, Hon. Minister of Finance, Budget and Planning, Zainab Ahmed and Hon. Minister of State Finance, Budget and National Planning, Prince Clem Agba. Others were representatives from BMGF, World Bank, USAID, UNICEF, ISMPH, Sahel Consulting, Dangote Foundation, GAIN and other development partners.
The summit was aimed at renewing commitment from stakeholders to work towards improving domestic financing options, stronger private sector engagement as well as strengthened coordination, planning and accountability. Its objectives were:
- to emphasize the roles optimal nutrition plays in National development and highlight the huge deficits in funding requirements for urgent action.
- to explore alternative and innovative sources of financing nutrition including strategies for increasing private sector investments in nutrition.
- to unravel the constraints in budget implementation, coordination, planning and accountability as a strategy for improving nutrition financing for nutrition.