Do you want to know how well Niger State has fared in the implementation of nutrition policies and activities aimed at improving the nutritional status of residents in Niger State? Read excerpts from CS-SUNN’s discourse with the State Nutrition Officer as we x-ray nutrition policy implementation and other nutrition issues in Niger State.

Question: Could you please tell us your full name and designation?

Response: “I am Asa’mau Abubakar Mohammed; I am the State Nutrition Officer for Niger state.”

Question: What is the current situation regarding awareness, support and Implementation of the National Policy on Food and Nutrition and National Strategic Plan of Action for Nutrition in Niger state?

Response: “Yes! The current situation has been that of high- level awareness, and when I say high level awareness, (sic) is at various levels. The way we can look at it is to assess the indicators that show that awareness has been created. For example, the care givers themselves. When you look at the number of caregivers we have reached through our programmes you can see increase. Through our Community Infant and Young Child Feeding programmes, through our Community Management of Acute Malnutrition programmes, and so on and so forth. If you look at it, how many people were assessing this, what is it now?  You will surely see it clearly that there is an increase. So that is to show you that people have been reached over this and awareness has been created and support that are needed have been gotten and the result which will normally come as a result of the implementation. If you look at it again, (sic) is our policy makers. Now I want to give example of happenings in nutrition where you see the speaker, members of House of Assembly and Commissioners discussing nutrition at high level. I think all these are outputs of the kind of effort that are coming from this awareness”.

And so also if you look at programmes that touch the vulnerable groups, probably we were concentrating on our under-fives’, now there are programs that target the under-fives, the pregnant women and programmes that target the elderly, and so on and so forth. Then when you look at the budget and how much nutrition is accessing or getting you also see this increase. All these are outputs that are coming as a result of the policy on ground”.

Question: How high is political will towards scaling up nutrition in Niger state?

Response: “You can see the moment you started asking this question, (sic) sort of smiles on my face. Yes! Honestly in Niger state, I want to commend the political group in particular my Governor. If you look at the two issues which were going round nutrition in the past, is the issue of political will and the issue of budget and funding. And honestly if you look at the way the Governor has handled the two areas and other stakeholders in the state, I think there is high political will from the stakeholders. I want to give an example, the AnRIN project, has a condition before implementation which says you have to pay the fifty Million counter-part for you to operate for that year and it’s going to last for five years. What my Governor did was to bring the five years counterpart fund which was 250Million at once so as to save us the stress of coming every year or having other issues coming to block the release of that funds (sic). So, Niger state counterpart fund for AnRIN project was released at once for 250 Million naira. You see the political will is the drive why these actions are coming up.

Ah, just before now we have the problem of, the issue that has to do with scaling up with CMAM, the curative component of malnutrition management. The moment it became obvious that actions needed to be taken, a wholesome Twenty-seven million (27M) was released to quickly swap (sic) into action and make these CMAM centers available because the few available then was (sic) inadequate. For example, look at the workshop, the Speakers, the Members of the House of Assembly, the Commissioners, even the Permanent Secretaries of other ministries that you feel will say ah no I will not be chanced, will move at once to honor such invitation to be present from the beginning till the end, that is also a sign of political will on the part of the policy makers”.

Question: How has CS-SUNN partnership with your state government in the implementation of nutrition interventions stimulated more commitment to the implementation of the strategic plan of action for nutrition at state level?

Response: “Honestly speaking I want to be factual. CS-SUNN has done well in this push to see realities of carrying nutrition to a greater height. I have this saying from my Old Man, my Dad, who says is not about taking first but maintaining the first. But I believe that whatever we are looking at now as success, we need to maintain it and if we need to maintain it, we need to have people like CS-SUNN by our side to help us continue with the good work they have been doing. And also, I want to push ahead to say, if you look at it at the state level, CS-SUNN has built this relationship to make a lot of things happen, but we still have some action to drill down the LGAs. I think the state actors at that level still need to be touched, just like every, if not almost all of our stakeholders at the state level are now nutrition Ambassadors especially Members of the House of Assembly and the relevant Ministries. I can assure you that, you can knock on any of their doors to explain nutrition to you, you will think it is a nutritionist talking about nutrition. But this feat has not really drill down to the local government. We also have stakeholders there; we have policy makers there. We have people that need to come on board to position nutrition the way it should be at that level. I think these are areas l will like CS-SUNN to move to especially in the areas of capacity building to the LGA actors as well as advocacies to the same team of LGA actors so we can be on the same platform”.

Question: Why do you think CS-SUNN programs in your state should be scaled-up?

Response: “You know like I said, honestly the action of CS-SUNN in my state has changed the narratives in nutrition implementation for better. But then, like Oliver Twist, we will also want more. Am not saying we don’t have other challenges; I still want them to be there for us to push it so that one day we can beat our chest to say we have arrived. I know that is a difficult statement to make but then I believe with their advocacy action (sic) and other areas, we the implementors will be able to say we have arrived”.

Thank you very much for your time.