Omon-Julius Onabu in Asaba
Delta State Governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, has said the COVID-19 pandemic and widespread insecurity have grossly affected the food supply situation in the country. Okowa said the food situation in the South-south geo-political zone was particularly challenging, explaining that the nutritional profile in the zone is presently below globally accepted levels.
Okowa spoke at the weekend in Asaba at the Exploratory Dialogue on the United Nations Food Systems (UNFSS) Sub-National Dialogue in the South-South Geo-political Zone for Delta, Edo and Bayelsa states. The dialogue was organised by the Delta State government, in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning.
The governor said urgent measures were needed to tackle the food situation.
“The task before us now is formulating policies to achieve the SDGs target. Nutritional situation in the South-south zone has also been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to hike in prices of food items and agricultural inputs, in addition to insecurity, militancy and kidnapping in the region,” Okowa said.
The exploratory dialogue on food systems in Asaba was preparatory to the United Nations’ world food systems summit, slated to hold later in the year.
Okowa was represented at the one-day event by Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Mr Chiedu Ebie. The governor said in the light of the low nutritional profile of the South-south states due to poor supply of valuable food, the need to rub minds on relevant policy directions towards achieving the 17 Sustainable Goals (SDGs) in the region could not be over-emphasised.
Okowa stated, “South-south zone, like the other parts of the country, has a lot of nutritional challenges, with stunting rate as high as 27 per cent for boys and 18 per cent for girls under the age of five. The percentage of wastage was put at 2.4 per cent and 9.2 per cent, respectively.
“It is, therefore, imperative that very drastic measures are taken, because the effects of malnutrition during the lives of these Under-Five children affect them even in their adult life. This affects their rate of survival to adulthood. The SDGs for wasting for 2020 is less than three per cent.”
The governor acknowledged the visible efforts by the respective governments in the zone “to improve the nutritional profile of our foods” through various policy instruments. But he said he had personally taken up the challenge to tackle the situation head-on through a strategic plan of action as well as budgetary provision.
Specifically, Okowa said, “In Delta State, aside from adopting the Strategic Plan, I have also approved funds for the Food and Nutrition Strategic Plan in the 2021 Budget.”
He called for more collaboration among stakeholders in the South-south and the country at large.
The governor stated that the adoption and domestication of the policies and constant strategic plans by governments in the South-south would require “increased reliance on domestic funding and well-coordinated multi-stakeholder approach, comprising governments, CSOs, private sector donors, and backed by sustained high-level political commitment.”
Okowa further said, “Several dialogues are being organised in Nigeria in response to the United Nations Secretary-General’s call on world leaders to take part in a summit that will help to establish the future direction for food systems and accelerate collective action by all stakeholders. This is in recognition that transforming the food system is pivotal to achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.”