Nigeria has the second highest burden of stunted children in the world. The national prevalence rate of children under five stands at 32 percent. In addition, an estimated 2 million children in Nigeria suffer from Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM). Malnutrition also accounts for about 50% of child mortality in Nigeria.

Within the lifespan of CS-SUNN some programmes and policies have been put in place by the Nigerian Government to address the issue of malnutrition. These include: The National Policy on Food and Nutrition (2016), the Food Security Bill (2015), the National Strategic Plan of Action for Nutrition (the health sector response), the Micronutrient Control Programme, the Baby-friendly Hospital Initiative, the school feeding programme and others. CS-SUNN in collaboration with nutrition partners supported the review of some of these policies and plans and their domestication at the state level. The government has also enacted laws requiring the fortification of mass consumed foods with vitamin A, iron and salt iodization. However, with all of these in place, malnutrition has not been eradicated and the burden of its menace in Nigeria has remained a great public health concern

In commemoration of Nigeria’s 60th Independence Anniversary, The Civil Society-Scaling Up Nutrition in Nigeria (CS-SUNN) convened a virtual Nutrition Webinar. The webinar with theme “Nigeria@60: Improving Nutrition-Rhetorics, Realities and Results” was aimed at raising awareness and spurring action towards mobilizing domestic resources and political actions to address the burden of malnutrition in Nigeria. With over 100 nutrition stakeholders as participants, CS-SUNN highlighted roles of various stakeholders and also launched the “LET US DO MORE CAMPAIGN” to galvanize action to improve lives of women and children especially those living in marginalized communities.

The Chairman, Board of Trustees, CS-SUNN, Dr. Philippa Momah while elaborating on the theme, emphasized that optimal nutrition at every stage (especially 0-5 years) of the human life cycle is a fundamental human right and malnutrition is a denial of that right. According to her, nutrition policies developed and launched at the National level are not fully domesticated at the sub-national levels, making them mere rhetoric. She added that when some of the policies are domesticated, there is no domestic funding, releases and cash backing with an attendant lack of accountability for funds released.

“As we celebrate our nationhood at 60, I salute the great people of Nigeria, especially the over 70 percent living under the poverty level of less than 1 dollar a day, who are trapped in the vicious circle of poverty, ignorance and disease. This is further compounded by inequity and insecurity. I say to my fellow Nigerians, continue to stay strong, e go better! I salute those in authority at the National, State, Local Governments and Private Sector, the agri-business. They have a stake to make nutrition better in Nigeria, I plead with them as Nigeria turns 60 to be accountable and faithful stewards of the positions they hold as Nigerians”, she said.

While launching the “Let Us Do More Campaign” CS-SUNN BOT Secretary, Prof. Ngozi Nnam, explained that the campaign is a wake-up call for Nigeria at 60 and Nigerians to take concrete steps at protecting and caring for the vulnerable by ensuring affordable access to health and optimal nutrition while scaling up effort to ensure nutrition and food security.

In her words “Your Excellency, the Vice President can do more by taking critical steps as the Chairman of the National Council on Nutrition, starting with pushing for the formal approval of the National Multisectoral Plan of Action for Food and Nutrition. Your Excellency, Mr. President, Legislators, Ministers, Commissioners, Permanent Secretaries, and key policy makers can do more by prioritizing nutrition programmes and funding as malnutrition contributes to the root cause of over 50% of childhood killer diseases. If we eradicate malnutrition we may have as well dealt a deadly blow to over 50% of these diseases that contribute to our high mortality rates. Investing in nutrition is not negotiable. One dollar invested in Nutrition yields sixteen dollars in return and creates lifetime benefits for the nation”, she said. Read her full message here.

In a Presentation titled “Creating Enabling Environment for Nutrition in Nigeria through Policies, Plans and Strategies”, Bill and Melinda Gate Foundation’s Senior Program Officer, Dr. Victor Ajieroh revealed that stunting is an investment with outsized returns, and unrecoverable losses. This he said, limits a country’s ability to compete in the knowledge economy associated with costs of as much as 11% of expected GDP annually (BMGF).

The Gate Foundation’s Senior Program Officer commended Nigeria at 60 for improved visibility for nutrition and paying attention to the nutrition policy environment and structures for improving nutrition. He however, called for intensified efforts in matching Nigeria’s nutrition interventions with the magnitude of the malnutrition challenge.

Also speaking on “Shrinking Space for Civil Society engagements in Nigeria”, CS-SUNN Chairman, Ifedilichukwu Ekene Innocent noted that though Civil Society Organizations play crucial roles in reaching the most vulnerable, advocating for the rights and wellbeing of the poorest and most marginalized communities, most countries of the world, restrict/ limit CSOs engagements by instituting policies. He urged the Nigerian Government to leverage on the expertise and capacity of CSOs to develop and strengthen its systems to deliver effective results to her citizens.

“Governments should renew their commitment to respect, protect and promote citizens’ rights especially through enactment of human rights, legal and policy frameworks that promote citizen participation in governance and providing channels to demand for transparency and accountability from the leaders. Governments should desist from the practice of circumventing enacted laws to clamp down on critical voices and freedom of expression spaces”, Ekene said.

Mrs. Chito Nelson from the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning called for the revitalization of existing nutrition committees and capacity strengthening of secretariats of coordination platforms to overcome barriers to coordination of Nutrition Platforms.

Earlier, CS-SUNN’s Executive Secretary, Mrs. Beatrice Eluaka had noted that the commemoration of Nigeria’s 60th anniversary provided CS-SUNN the opportunity to commemorate the 6th anniversary of the official launch of the Alliance which has over the years in line with her vision, engaged government and non-stake actors to effectively raise awareness, sustain commitment and actions to effectively tackle malnutrition in Nigeria.