Martins Ifijeh

As part of plans to tackle high malnutrition burden in Lagos State, the Executive Secretary, Civil Society Scaling-Up Nutrition in Nigeria (CS-SUNN), Beatrice Eluaka, has called on the state government to increase funding and improve salience of nutrition policy.

Stating this at the media engagement on Partnership for Improving Nigeria Nutrition System (PINNS) Issues, held in Lagos recently, she said the state was one of the places with high burden of the health challenge, hence the need for the state government to prioritise interventions.

She said for every investment made in tackling malnutrition, the return on investment will ensure the health of the people improves, while it will also give a positive outlook to the state’s economy.

The nutrition advocate said: “Malnutrition remains a key contributor to infant and maternal mortality and morbidity, poor cognitive development, increased severity of diseases which adversely affects productivity in Nigeria.

“According to the National Demographic Health Survey (NDHS) 2013, more than five million newborns in Nigeria lack essential nutrients and antibodies that would protect them from diseases and deaths as they are not being exclusively breastfed.

“The National Nutrition and Health Survey (NNHS) 2014, puts exclusive breastfeeding rate in Nigeria at 25 per cent. For Lagos State, the Multiple Indication Cluster Survey (MICS) 2017 puts stunting rate at 11.4 per cent, wasting at 11.4 per cent and underweight at 14.5 per cent.

“These negative results indicate an alarming rising trend in our malnutrition burden, which will continue to further impede the nation’s economic development if not checked as globally, stunting is currently an indicator for measuring a country’s development.”

She however commended the Lagos State Government for extending maternity leave for female civil servants to six months and introducing a 10-day paternity leave for fathers.

According to her, such policy was a step in the right direction towards promoting exclusive breastfeeding, which ensures optimal physical growth and brain development of children, prevents malnutrition, engenders them to thrive well and live up to their full potentials at adulthood.

She therefore called on other states to emulate Lagos as this will contribute to encouraging the practice of exclusive breastfeeding, especially among working mothers, thereby boosting Nigeria’s exclusive breastfeeding rate and contributing to a reduction in malnutrition in the country.

Eluaka said: “Recently, at the just concluded Ministerial Press Briefing in Abuja to commemorate the 2018 World Breastfeeding Week, the Honorable Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole revealed that the Ministry of Health was working closely with the Ministry of Labor to extend maternity leave in Nigeria from four to six months.
“We are urging the ministers and other key stakeholders involved in the process of implementing this policy to fast-track it, as it will go a long way to encourage and boost Nigeria’s EBF rates which will contribute to a reduction in malnutrition.”

She said PINNS, a product of consultations between a donor and CS-SUNN was targeted at strengthening the Nigeria nutrition systems to be more result-driven, effective, serviceable, efficient and transparent in delivering on their mandate, adding that it also aims at holding government accountable on commitments made to allocate, release and use transparently funds for implementation of high impact Nutrition interventions in Nigeria through evidence-based advocacy.

“This project will also contribute to a reduction in malnutrition particularly among women and children in Nigeria as is focused on strengthening governance, policy implementation, effective coordination, financing, building the capacity of state actors, generation and effective communication of evidence as promoting accountability,” she said.

On her part, the Communications Officer, CS-SUNN, Lilian Ajah-mong, called on governments at all level to domesticate and fully implement the multi-sectoral plans of action for nutrition, provide adequate funding for nutrition in all nutrition line ministries’ annual budgets, release and judiciously utilise allocated funds for high impact interventions.

She also called for the strengthening of the coordination activities of the national and state committees on food and nutrition, and ensures nutrition services were prioritised and funded from the one per cent Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) at the various primary health centres across the country.