Ahmed: FG Committed to Eradicating Malnutrition, Food Insecurity

Minister of Finance, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed

By Nume Ekeghe

The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, has reiterated the federal government’s commitment to tackling food insecurity and malnutrition across Nigeria.

She also noted that the implementation of the National Food Summit Dialogue was critical to the achievement of the Medium-Term National Development Plan (MTNDP) and Nigeria’s Agenda 2050.

In her opening remarks at the dialogue on the United Nations’ (UN) food system summit held yesterday, she stated that the output of various food dialogues would form a critical component for the conclusion of the MTNDP and Nigeria Agenda 2050, and would, as well, contribute to the achievement of sustainable development goals (SDGs) in Nigeria.

Speaking on the essence of the Nigeria National Food Systems Dialogues (NNFSD), Ahmed said: “The NNFSD is required to improve nutrition security, reduce hunger and prevalence of malnutrition in line with the national food and nutrition policy for Nigeria.

“It is envisioned to create more inclusive, healthier food systems and encourage a collaborative approach towards building a sustainable food system.

“In recent years, Nigeria has shown a clear commitment to the eradication of malnutrition. This is happening through the adoption and domestication of policies and strategic plans, which emphasise increased reliance on domestic funding; and a well-coordinated multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholders approach (comprising government, CSOs, private sector and donors); backed by sustained high-level political commitment,” she said.

She added: “These include the national strategic plan of action for nutrition, the national policy on food and nutrition, the innovative national social investment programme (which includes the home-grown school feeding programme), the basic health care provision fund, and the National Council on Nutrition, and the development of various food and nutrition sector plans.”

According to her, “We in Nigeria are at a critical crossroads. While we have seen some improvements in recent years, particularly in the areas of child nutrition and breast feeding, we know that in order for these improvements to yield results, malnutrition (and other public health issues) must be addressed through the implementation of innovative policies and strategies.”

The implementation of the innovative policies and strategies must ensure that malnutrition is: appropriately funded, data-driven, sustainable, and that they help to optimise transparency and accountability.

“Further, we must continue to work collaboratively across the federal and state governments, and hand-in-hand with the private sector, and development partners. This is particularly true given the dual impact of COVID-19 and the drop in crude oil prices,” she added.

The minister noted that government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari was swift and people-oriented.

“It includes a fiscal stimulus package, amendments to the Medium-Term Fiscal Framework (MTFF) and the 2020 Appropriation Act, and the launch of the multi-sector Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP).

“Our emphasis has been on protecting the economy and funding the country’s healthcare needs, with the COVID-19 response spurring necessary transformation and innovation in the fiscal space and beyond,” she added.