A communiqué issued at the end of a two-day Media Dialogue on Child Malnutrition organized by UNICEF in partnership with the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture for media practitioners, nutritionists and other stakeholders in Nigeria, held at the De Legend Hotel, Owerri, Imo State, from July 13 to July 15, 2016.
With the theme “Good nutrition- An investment for the future”, the dialogue featured presentations by experts on nutrition interventions in Nigeria, malnutrition and its impact on children, and media advocacy for increased resources for nutrition programming, amongst others. Participants reviewed the Nigerian situation and made startling discoveries on the threat posed by severe child malnutrition on the population.
Participants brainstormed on ways to improve nutrition and avert the avoidable deaths and irreversible consequences of acute child malnutrition. Participants also visited some malnourished children at the Federal Medical Centre, Owerri Imo State.
The following resolutions were reached at the end of the exercise:
- Participants noted that child malnutrition is on the rise in Nigeria despite concerted efforts by government, UNICEF and other development partners to combat it. More worrisome is the fact that cases of acute child malnutrition, contrary to erroneous perceptions in some quarters, are no longer a problem of only the North East and parts of North West affected by insurgency. Acute child malnutrition now cuts across every state in Nigeria, as there are confirmed and shocking cases of malnutrition in other states of the country.
- Government should declare a state of emergency on child malnutrition as findings / researches have shown that over 2.5 million children suffer from Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) annually in Nigeria with about 20 per cent of them at the risk of imminent death unless there is quick intervention.
- The Nigerian government should show more commitment towards the global efforts against child malnutrition. Therefore, governments at all levels should do more to complement the efforts of UNICEF and other development partners in fighting child malnutrition in the country.
- Ignorance on proper feeding practices has been identified as one of the causes of malnutrition, hence the need for proper sensitisation by the media, faith-based organisations, schools, etc., on nutrition in the homes.
- The President and all state Governors should devote at least five per cent of their security votes to the fight against child malnutrition in the country. There could be no greater threat to the country than the one posed by severe child malnutrition which puts the lives of over 2.5 million innocent children on the line annually.
Similarly, government should create a specific budget line for Nutrition and ensure prompt release of funds.
- Government should ensure the availability of Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Foods (RUTFs) in every state for urgent interventions in cases of emergency.
- Government should create enabling environment for local production of RUTFs to minimize cost.
- More attention should be given to the prevention of malnutrition to avoid its irreversible consequences such as stunted growth and poor brain development. To this end, consumption of bio-fortified foods should be encouraged especially among young mothers and children. Producers of flour, salt, vegetable oil and sugar should be closely monitored by the various regulatory agencies to ensure they are fortified with vitamin A and iodine.
- Corporate bodies and individuals should also endeavour to devote part of their earnings to support the global efforts towards eradication of child malnutrition.
- Nursing mothers should be encouraged to breastfeed their babies exclusively for the first six months of life. For effective compliance, Governments and the private sector should extend maternity leave to six months and introduce paternity leave for men.
- Government should mandate public and private institutions including worship centres and motor parks to provide crèches for nursing mothers.
- The media should intensify efforts on advocacy for increased nutrition programmes. They should dedicate space and airtime to sensitise the public on the dangers, prevention and treatment for malnutrition.
- Faith-based organisations and schools should also join in the campaign by dedicating part of their meetings to teachings on proper nutrition.
- There should be periodic review by stakeholders of the nutrition situation in Nigeria with a view to finding out the impact of the various interventions.
- First Ladies should include provision and distribution of drugs and food nutrients to malnourished children as part of their pet project.
- We commend government, UNICEF, and other development partners for efforts at combating malnutrition in Nigeria and urge them to sustain the tempo.
Federal Ministry of Information and Culture.
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