Civil Societies in the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) West & Central Africa region have been urged to emulate actions undertaken by the Nigerian Civil Society Alliance, CS-SUNN, to promote nutrition during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Regional representative of Action Against Hunger (ACF) for West Central Africa, Mamadou Diop cited CS-SUNN’s community and media engagements to promote nutrition, as part of needed action to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on nutrition across the region.

Diop made these remarks during the SUN Civil Society Network Regional Secretariat Webinar on Nutrition and COVID-19 with theme “Strengthening Nutrition during COVID-19: Civil society main actions to keep nutrition as a priority”. The webinar, Diop explained, was aimed at identifying strategies to keep nutrition as top priority for countries in the region in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Representatives of SUN Civil Society Alliances from Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone attended the webinar.

In a presentation on the “Multisectoral Impact of COVID-19 in the SUN region”, Regional Nutrition Adviser, UNICEF Western and Central Regional Office, Noel Marie Zagre revealed that the percentage of children in countries, within the region, who have become susceptible to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is high. According to him “We have not yet learned to live with the situation and COVID-19 is not behind us. It is not a health crisis only but also an economic crises”.  Speaking on the impact of COVID-19 on health services in West Africa, ACF’s Regional health nutrition advisor for West Africa, Fanta Toure Diop, said many countries will not meet the 15% Abuja declaration/commitment due to shortage in finances occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic. She described the health system in the region as ill-prepared with poor capacity for resilience to beat the pandemic.

CS-SUNN Executive Secretary, Beatrice Eluaka made a presentation on CS-SUNN contributions during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to her, the Nigerian CSA actively participated in the development of the Nigerian Nutrition Response Plan for COVID-19 initiated by the Federal Ministry of Health. On media engagements, Eluaka noted that the Nutrition Society of Nigeria (a member of CS-SUNN) organized an on-line training for Journalists where CS-SUNN imparted journalists with requisite knowledge on Communicating Nutrition during COVID-19.

She also said CS-SUNN has conducted several social media campaigns on prioritizing nutrition in Nigeria’s COVID-19 response and recovery efforts. Nigerians have been enlightened on nutritional needs for COVID-19 during media appearances and published media releases. “In collaboration with other partners, CS-SUNN organized a webinar on Improving Maternal, Infant and Child Nutrition in the context of COVID-19 where CS-SUNN representative made a presentation on “COVID-19 National Nutrition Response and the Strategies for full Community Engagement. Following joint advocacy (not credited to CS-SUNN alone), a nutritionist (the President of the Nutrition Society of Nigeria) has been drafted into the Presidential Task Force for COVID-19” she said. As part of CS-SUNN response, member CSOs have been actively involved in contributing robust nutrition support activities to households at the grassroots in Nigeria.

Policy Specialist at Scaling Up Nutrition Movement, Sonia PanZani, explained that the movement had collated a knowledge hub and informational resources on their website for all members of the SUN Movement about COVID-19 and nutrition developments.

The West & Central African CSN collectively identified strategies to be adopted by countries for increased advocacy towards:

* resilience in the future to weather pandemics and emergencies like COVID-19

* strengthening health systems in countries to face health pandemics

* improved advocacies by SUN countries towards achieving their objectives.

* accountability and strengthening of governance response of CSO actors towards activities as well as improved country participation in community engagements.

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