You are currently viewing CS-SUNN/NSN Media Roundtable Generates Key Recommendations for Advancing Nutrition Departments Establishment in Nigeria.

CS-SUNN/NSN Media Roundtable Generates Key Recommendations for Advancing Nutrition Departments Establishment in Nigeria.

In Nigeria, a major stride has been initiated in the fight against malnutrition through the directive for the establishment of Nutrition Departments across various Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs). This initiative, championed by the past administration of General Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, began with an Executive Order, mandating the creation of these departments in relevant MDAs, reflecting strong political will and commitment to improving nutrition outcomes. The establishment of these departments aligns with CS-SUNN’s initiatives of enhancing the coordination function of the National/State Committees on Food and Nutrition (N/SCFN).

Cross section of Panelists at the Media Roundtable

Re-echoing the Need for Dedicated Nutrition Departments:

CS-SUNN in collaboration with the Nutrition Society of Nigeria (NSN) recently organized a media roundtable to emphasize the critical need for establishing dedicated Nutrition Departments across all MDAs. This roundtable brought significant attention to the substantial impact these departments can have on nutrition coordination, funding, and policy implementation. The roundtable highlighted the importance of these departments in fostering collaboration among stakeholders, which is instrumental in the successful rollout of nutrition programs. The event aimed to:

            Highlight the significance of establishing Nutrition Departments in key MDAs.

            Help participants understand the expected impact on nutrition coordination, funding, and policy implementation.

            Generate recommendations on fostering the full implementation of nutrition department establishment at both federal and state levels.

            Foster media engagement and advocacy to improve the visibility of this critical issue.

Bringing Together Key Stakeholders:

The media roundtable saw over 40 participants, including representatives from the Federal Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (FMoH&SW), National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Nutrition Society of Nigeria (NSN), Office of the Vice President, Accelerating Nutrition Results in Nigeria (ANRiN), the National Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ) including the media and independent consultants.

In her opening remarks, CS-SUNN Programme Manager Dr. Goodness Anyanwu expressed sincere gratitude to stakeholders and media representatives for their collaboration in advancing nutrition in Nigeria.

The Vice President’s Special Assistant on Public Health and Focal Person on Nutrition, Office of the Vice President on Health, Uju Vanstasia Anwukah, said “I want to commend CS-SUNN for its consistency in the conduct of this media roundtable. The Head of Services has mandated teams to visit all MDAs regarding establishing the Nutrition Department. Initially, letters were sent to all the MDAs to honor the executive order of the President to create Nutrition Departments, and the Vice-President has reiterated this”.

Priscilla Oche, Representative of Vice President’s Special Assistant on Public Health and Focal Person on Nutrition, Office of the Vice President on Health

Analyzing Progress and Impact:

Professor Kola Anigo, National Coordinator of the SUN Academia Research Network (SUN-ARN), presented an overview of the Nutrition Department establishment in Nigeria. “The creation of Nutrition Departments is a major landmark in Nigeria’s nutrition landscape, and expected statutory funding should be made available to the department as outlined in the 5-year National Multisectoral Plan of Action for Food and Nutrition (NMPFAN),” he stated. However, his analysis revealed that only three (FMH&SW, Federal Ministry of Agriculture, NPHCDA) out of 13 MDAs (23%) have a nutrition department at the national level. Furthermore, out of Nigeria’s 36 states, only seven—Osun, Ebonyi, Kogi, Bayelsa, Zamfara, Cross River, Ondo, Nasarawa and the Federal Capital Territory—have established nutrition departments.

The Power of Coordination and Funding:

A panel session featured representatives from MDAs that have already established Nutrition Departments, others yet to do so, academia, and nutrition consultants. The discussions focused on the successes achieved through having dedicated Nutrition Departments and generated strong recommendations to advance the establishment of nutrition departments in Nigeria. “Having a Nutrition Department has led to improved coordination, system strengthening, capacity development, nutrition service delivery, and access to funding. For instance, in 2023, the budget we had as a Unit was 66 million, but when we became a full-fledged Nutrition Department, we received funding of over 2.5 billion in 2024 for nutrition programs and other essential nutrition,” shared Mrs. Ladi Bako Ayiegbusi, Head of the Nutrition Department.

The President of the Nutrition Society of Nigeria, Prof. Wasiu Afolabi, highlighted the alarming statistic that approximately 40 million Nigerians may go without food each day. He attributed this dire situation to inadequate funding and investment in nutrition, stemming from a lack of political will. Prof. Afolabi further revealed that the Nigerian Nutrition Indicator shows that 79% of households in the country are hungry. He called for increased advocacy to appeal to policymakers’ conscience on the importance of nutrition, particularly for children and mothers, emphasizing that the establishment of nutrition departments is crucial to addressing these challenges.

President of the Nutrition Society of Nigeria, Prof. Wasiu Afolabi speaking at the Roundtable

On her part, Dr. Ogechi Akalonu of the NPHCDA emphasized the critical need for recruiting qualified nutritionists to lead these nutrition departments. She lamented that nutrition initiatives often fail to be effectively implemented when departments are headed by non-core nutrition professionals, a situation that needs urgent correction. She stressed the importance of increasing the recruitment of nutritionists in key nutrition-focused MDAs.

Dr. Davis Omotola, a Nutrition Consultant, highlighted that establishing nutrition departments is essential for securing increased government funding. He emphasized that those resisting the initiative, lacked an understanding of its benefits and called for ongoing education to bridge this gap. “We need to show that we care for our people. How many women receive nutrition counselling? Why aren’t children who need vitamin A getting it, despite having enough capsules?” Dr. Omotola asked, stressing the need for better nutrition governance and resource allocation.

Other panellists discussed the vital role of nutrition departments in enhancing coordination, securing funding, and implementing policies. They highlighted the importance of inter-agency collaboration, grassroots and local community engagement, and shared key strategies for scaling up the establishment of nutrition departments across other MDAs. Additionally, they addressed the role of civil society organizations (CSOs) in supporting the efforts of nutrition departments to combat malnutrition in Nigeria.

In a joint press statement signed by the Executive Secretary of CS-SUNN and the President Nutrition Society of Nigeria, CS-SUNN Co-Chair Mrs. Aji Robinson called on the President of Nigeria, His Excellency Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu (GCFR), to:

            Mandate the National Council on Nutrition to urgently address the creation of Nutrition Departments in relevant MDAs and strengthen Nutrition Governance at all levels.

            Direct the National Council on Nutrition to tackle Food and Nutrition insecurity and implement the Presidential Directives on setting up Nutrition Departments.

            Support Nutrition financing initiatives and establish a Nutrition Investment Trust Fund.

            Sustain emergency food assistance and health protection, especially during the lean season, for those in critical need.

CS-SUNN Co-Chair Mrs. Aji Robinson presenting the Press Statement at the Roundtable

Recommendations for the Future:

The roundtable concluded with a powerful call to action, urging all MDAs to establish Nutrition Departments. Key recommendations included:

            Development of advocacy briefs on the importance of creating Nutrition Departments for engaging relevant MDAs.

            Encouraging the Coordinating MDA (MEPB) to recognize the importance of establishing a Nutrition Department and take necessary steps towards actualization.

            Increasing advocacy efforts with key media organizations to prioritize nutrition reportage.

            Recruit more nutritionists into the MDAs to support the Nutrition Departments.

CS-SUNN PM addressing cross section of Participants at the Media Roundtable

The Road Ahead:

The journey towards fully functional Nutrition departments across Nigeria is ongoing. With continued advocacy, collaboration, and political will, the establishment of these departments can significantly improve the nation’s nutritional outcomes, ensuring a more nourished and healthier future for millions of Nigerians.

The Media Reports:

Please click to read up most of the media reports from the roundtable!

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