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CS-SUNN’s Decade of Nutrition Advocacy: Reflecting on the Past and Shaping the Future.

From Humble Beginnings:

In the heart of Nigeria’s state of harmony, Kwara, a vision was born. 11 years ago, during the Global World Breastfeeding Week commemoration, the Civil Society-Scaling Up Nutrition in Nigeria (CS-SUNN) emerged. With just 13 pioneer organizations, CS-SUNN, Nigeria Scaling Up Nutrition, Civil Society Alliance (SUN CSA) embarked on a mission to transform Nigeria into a nation where every citizen is food and nutrition secure. The Pioneer organizations are Association of Public Health Physicians of Nigeria (APHPN), Nutrition Society of Nigeria (NSN), Save the Children, Nigeria, Pro-Health International, Helen Keller International (HKI) and Prisons Rehabilitation & Welfare Action (PRAWA). Others are Food Basket Foundation International (FBI), Women Wing of Christian Association of Nigeria (WoWICAN), Federation of Muslim Women Association of Nigeria (FOMWAN), Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), National Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ) United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Key participants at the Formal Inauguration of CS-SUNN in Kwara State in 2014

A Decade of Growth and Commitment:

Fast-forward to 2024, and CS-SUNN has blossomed from those humble beginnings. Today, boasting over 500 member organizations with chapters spanning across 28 states, CS-SUNN remains steadfast in its dedication to achieving a food and nutrition-secure Nigeria. Collaborating with partners and key government bodies, CS-SUNN has tirelessly pursued initiatives aimed at eradicating malnutrition, leaving an indelible mark on Nigeria’s nutrition landscape through evidence-based advocacy and strategic interventions.

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Group picture of participants at CS-SUNN 2019 AGM held in Abuja

10 Years of Impact (2011-2024):

CS-SUNN recently celebrated its monumental 10-year anniversary in Abuja under the theme “A Decade of Nutrition Advocacy: Reflecting on the Past and Shaping the Future.” The occasion reflected on the alliance’s journey and a celebration of its remarkable strides in advancing nutrition.

Marking Milestones through Media Visibility:

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CS-SUNN BoT/SC briefing the press ahead of the commencement of 10th Anniversary celebration

The celebration was preceded by extensive media outreach across print and broadcast media organizations, shedding light on CS-SUNN’s journey, successes, and impact on nutrition in Nigeria. A press briefing further underscored CS-SUNN’s key achievements over the past decade, issuing a call to action for stakeholders to address malnutrition in Nigeria and reaffirming the alliance’s commitment to driving positive change for nutrition. CS-SUNN Board of Trustees (BoT) Chair, Dr. Mbang Koffreh Ada, at the briefing said “With invaluable support from esteemed partners such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), UNICEF, UNOPS, Scaling Up Nutrition Movement, ANRiN, and others, CS-SUNN has effectively influenced policy formulation, resource allocation, and implementation mechanisms, thereby catalyzing improvements in the nutritional well-being of women and children under five years old across federal, state, as well as expanding jurisdictional boundaries, including beyond Nigeria’s borders.” “We call on Government across all levels in Nigeria to prioritize resource allocation, early releases and utilization to support the implementation of robust nutrition programs at all levels. The private sector should invest in and partner with CS-SUNN to support sustainable nutrition initiatives across Nigeria. We call on Civil Society Organizations to work together with CS-SUNN to advocate for inclusive and equitable nutrition policies and practices”, she added.

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CS-SUNN BoT Chairperson presenting a welcome address during the celebration

The 10 Years Anniversary Celebration:

Bringing together over 100 guests cutting across, state actors, non-state actors, development partners, CS-SUNN alliance members and civil society, donors, media among others, Nigeria SUN CSA demonstrated her unwavering belief in the importance of a well-nourished population as the foundation for human progress and societal growth, the driving force behind their remarkable achievements. Presenting the welcome address, the Chairman of the BoT CS-SUNN, extended a gracious welcome to all attendees and expressed heartfelt gratitude to those who have steadfastly supported CS-SUNN throughout its decade-long journey. In reaffirming CS-SUNN’s unwavering commitment, the Chairman emphasized the alliance’s heightened resolve to confront prevailing challenges and underscored the prioritization of nutrition for the betterment of the health and well-being of Nigerians.

Chaiman of the Occasion, Hon. Chike Okafor, Chairman House Committee on Nutrition and Food Security, expressed interest in collaborating with alliances like CS-SUNN working to address the twain issues of malnutrition and lack of food in the country. According to him “I have come to realize that the poor cannot sleep because they are hungry and this must be urgently addressed. How can one find rest when one’s their stomachs cries out in emptiness? I commend CS-SUNN’s feats on this 10th anniversary celebration and emphasize the interconnectedness of our collective struggle and shared responsibility to address malnutrition. I implore all present to join forces in this noble cause. As the Chairman of the House Committee on Nutrition and Food Security, I express the commitment of the 10th senate in addressing the issue of malnutrition in Nigeria”.

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Hon. Chike Okafor, Chairman House Committee on Nutrition and Food Security presenting his Opening Remarks.
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In the words of the Head SUN CSN, Alexandra Newlands, “I congratulate the Nigeria SUN CSA on their 10 years of challenges, successes, setbacks and progresses. Not only have you played an inspiring leadership role in sustaining and amplifying the work of the CSA in Nigeria, your decentralized module with State Coordinators in place and effective coordination mechanism of over 500 Civil Societies is an example for other Civil Society networks to emulate”. Andy Risgby of the BMGF added “One of the most remarkable aspects of the past 10 years of CS-SUNN is the ability of the alliance to deliver a sustained attention on policy and nutrition advocacy impact. CS-SUNN’s strategic approach has enabled them deliver both short-term wins for nutrition while keeping an eye on the long-term wins. Together, CS-SUNN and partners have increased budget allocations and expenditures and strengthened true multisectoral approach to nutrition”.

The Special Assistant to the President on Public Health, Focal Person on Nutrition, Office of the Vice-President Mrs Uju Vantasia Anwukah highlighted the visionary leadership of the Tinubu/Shettima-led administration in recognizing the urgent need to address Nigeria’s nutritional challenges. She emphasized that sustained advocacy, innovative strategies, and collaborative efforts are essential for comprehensive solutions. Mrs. Anwukah underscored the critical role of continued partnership with CS-SUNN in achieving this goal.

Speaking on behalf of Nutrition Line MDAs and representing the Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Head of Nutrition, Mrs. Ladi K. Bako-Aiyegbusi (mni) commended the efforts of CS-SUNNN at the national and in about 28 states. She noted that the ministry will work together with CS-SUNN in the next decade to intensify advocacy and awareness creation efforts including innovative mechanisms to intensify demand for increased investments for nutrition in Nigeria.

Dr. Michael Ojo, the Country Director of GAIN, spoke on behalf of all nutrition implementing partners. He remarked that as CS-SUNN commemorates a decade of nutrition advocacy, GAIN and its fellow partners take immense pride in the collaborative efforts within Nigeria’s nutrition network. Dr. Ojo emphasized, “We are particularly proud of the impactful achievements facilitated by CS-SUNN through these partnerships.” Expressing optimism for the future, he conveyed the collective eagerness to deepen collaboration with CS-SUNN, aiming to amplify the voices of the communities served and extend the reach of projects designed to benefit them, with a keen eye toward the next two decades.

Cross of participants watching a cultural display at the Anniversary celebration

Insights and Key note Presentations:

Key Speakers, including Dr. Victor Ajieroh and Dr. David Olayemi, delivered keynote addresses, reflecting on CS-SUNN’s impact and charting a course for the future of nutrition advocacy in Nigeria. Their words resonated, outlining the strides made in nutrition visibility, multi-sectoral engagement, policy implementation, and leadership development, while emphasizing the need for continued innovation and collaboration. “The success of CS SUNN is the success of the SUN movement in Nigeria,” said Dr. Ajieroh. He identified the following areas as reflecting the impact of CS-SUNN’s advocacy work in Nigeria’s nutrition space: Visibility, Awareness and Strategic positioning, the National Nutrition Council Agenda & Institutional mechanisms, Strengthened Multi-sectorality Narrative & Operations, The Food Systems/Equity/Climate Change, Maternity protection policies within 6 states, State level Domestication and Contextualization of Policies, More Nutrition Budget Lines at State & Federal levels, Creation of Nutrition Departments, Leadership Development. Dr. Olayemi urged CS-SUNN to significantly expand their engagements with other professional bodies and actively pursue the alignment of their advocacy objectives with the government’s Human Capital Development Vision.

Visual Narratives of Impact:

A compelling 19-minute documentary premiered during the anniversary proceedings, offering a visual tapestry of CS-SUNN’s journey with captivating imagery and footage. This cinematic testament encapsulated CS-SUNN’s unwavering dedication and substantive strides in nutrition advocacy over the past decade.

Voices of Impact:

Government functionaries from CS-SUNN project states shared testimonials, underscoring CS-SUNN’s pivotal role in driving positive change at the grassroots level. Testimonies from Nasarawa and Niger states highlighted CS-SUNN’s contributions to improved coordination, policy domestication, and increased budgetary allocations, bringing tangible benefits to the most vulnerable groups.

Side Events and Celebrations:

The anniversary festivities were further elevated with the launch of CS-SUNN’s updated logo, symbolizing a renewed commitment to global nutrition efforts. A ceremonial cake-cutting, led by Mrs. Uju Vanstasia Anwukah, Special Assistant to the President on Public Health Focal Person on Nutrition, Office of the Vice President underscored the significance of collaboration, growth, and a brighter future for nutrition in Nigeria.

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Embracing Culture and Expressing Gratitude:

The event was also marked by vibrant cultural performance, celebrating Nigeria’s diverse heritage and the integral role of advocacy in driving better nutrition outcomes. CS-SUNN expressed heartfelt gratitude to its contributors, presenting commendations and awards to individuals, organizations and staff for their unwavering support and dedication over the past decade.

CS-SUNN Executive Secretary receiving a Long Service Award

Looking Ahead:

As the curtains closed on this monumental celebration, CS-SUNN’s Steering Committee Chairman, Mallam Sodangi Chindo, reflected on the alliance’s founding principles, fathers and the endless possibilities ahead. This was not just a celebration of the past; it is a testament to the enduring legacy of CS-SUNN and a rallying cry for a future where every Nigerian has access to food and nutrition security.

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Cross Section of CS-SUNN State Chapter Coordinators

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