Every year, the World Food Day is marked on the 16th October by over 150 countries including Nigeria. This commemoration promotes world-wide awareness and action for those who suffer from hunger and the need to ensure food and nutrition security for all. It provides an opportunity to call for global collaboration and efforts to transform food systems by changing the way food is produced, stored, consumed, and even wasted. The World Food Day further brings to bear another opportunity for governments across the world including the Nigerian government, to act on commitment to the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2 – to achieve Zero Hunger by 2030.
The theme of the 2020 World Food Day is “Grow, Nourish, Sustain, Together. Our Actions, Our Future.” As the World Food Day is observed globally, it is important to note that in recent times, though some significant progress has been made in improving agricultural productivity and ensuring nutrition security, food systems are out of balance. Malnutrition, hunger, obesity, environmental degradation, loss of agro-biological diversity, food loss/waste and a lack of security for food chain workers are only some of the issues that underline this imbalance.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), over 2 billion people do not have regular access to nutritious, safe, and sufficient food. The organization adds that the impact of malnutrition in all its forms – undernutrition, micronutrient deficiencies, as well as overweight and obesity – on the global economy is estimated at USD 3.5 trillion per year. In addition, the 2020 Global Food Crises report reveals that 135 million people across 55 countries and territories experience acute food insecurity and require urgent food, nutrition, and livelihoods assistance.
It is worrisome to note that the FAO had also reported that about 7 million Nigerians would experience food shortage between June and August this year. The FCT including 16 northern states (Borno, Adamawa, Yobe, Gombe, Benue, Taraba, Katsina, Jigawa, Kano, Bauchi, Plateau, Kaduna, Kebbi, Sokoto and Zamfara) were identified to face this crisis. Nigeria still has the highest burden of stunting in Africa and is still the second highest in the world next to India. The country’s current nationwide childhood under-nutrition indicator stands at 37% stunting, 7% wasting and 23% underweight (NDHS, 2018).
As part of measures towards galvanizing action to address food and nutrition insecurity in Nigeria and in commemoration of the 2020 World Food Day, CS-SUNN:
- in collaboration with Action Against Hunger, supported the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development to host the Ministerial Press Briefing to mark the day.
- issued a Press Release to members of the press across Nigeria on the 2020 World Food Day calling for prioritization of Nigeria’s Food Fortification Agenda.
- hosted a social media campaign on twitter to commemorate the week.
The Press Conference hosted by the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development with support from Action Against Hunger and CS-SUNN brought together government stakeholders, legislators of partner states, development partners, donors and the media to spotlight issues around food and nutrition security in Nigeria and strategies to address them. The Women Affairs Minister, Pauline Tallen at the briefing called on Nigerians to use nutrition as a major part of the strategies for preventing a further spread of the COVID-19 and build the resilience of individuals and communities. The Minister represented by Director, Child Development in the Ministry, Jummai Mohammed also urged the government to give top priority to the budgetary allocations to agriculture and food security in the country.
CS-SUNN in a Press Release issued to journalists across Nigeria emphasized that Exclusive Breastfeeding particularly for infants in the first 6 months of life remained the best start that will provide infants with adequate nutrients and protect them against childhood killer diseases.
CS-SUNN further urged government at all levels to:
1. Prioritize the food and nutrition needs of the poorest and most vulnerable households in Nigeria by expanding and improving emergency food assistance and social protection programmes.
2. Approve and implement the National Multisectoral Plan of Action for Nutrition to guarantee optimal nutritional status for Nigerians through accelerating the scaling up of priority high impact nutrition specific and nutrition sensitive interventions with focus on the most vulnerable, especially women, children and internally displaced persons.
3. Prioritize nutrition in Nigeria by improving budgetary allocations, releasing and cash backing those allocations while ensuring transparency and accountability in use of funds directed at addressing malnutrition.
4. Extend the current 4 months maternity leave for nursing mothers to 6 months to enable them exclusively to breastfeed their babies.
5. Prioritize Nigeria’s Food fortification agenda and ensure an Improved integration of fortification regulatory monitoring into overall food inspection system. This will go a long way in tackling the challenge of “hidden hunger” and micronutrient deficiencies in Nigeria.
CS-SUNN’s Social Media campaign on twitter centered around the theme Grow, Nourish, Sustain, together” was aimed at galvanizing support and actions of key stakeholders to prioritize nutrition and support responses to health system strengthening, food & nutrition security; and avoid food crisis for vulnerable populations in the aftermath of the COVID19 pandemic.
The twitter campaign drew over 100 participants on twitter including the Wife of the Executive Governor of Kaduna State, Aisha Ummi El’Rufai, six top tweeter influencers, SUN Business Network, The Global Nutrition Report, Alive and Thrive, Action Against Hunger and many more.