Wife of the President, Mrs Aisha Buhari, has decried the high rate of acute malnutrition among children in the country and urged the Federal government and state governments to provide a nutrition-sensitive budget to tackle malnutrition problem in the country.
She lamented that Nigeria has the second-highest number of stunted children in the world who may never be able to have an optimally productive adult life.
Mrs Buhari spoke at a virtual conference by Aisha Buhari Foundation, in collaboration with the International Society of Media in Public Health (ISMPH) yesterday in Abuja.
She noted that despite efforts being made by the government to tackle the scourge of malnutrition, Nigeria still records millions of children suffering from one form of malnutrition or the other while some even die from the most severe form of malnutrition.
Represented by the wife of the Vice-President, Mrs Dolapo Osinbajo, Mrs Buhari observed that the current global pandemic and shrinking fiscal space has further worsened the situation by moving all attention and resources towards the containment of COVID -19 virus adding that we may have unconsciously excluded these vulnerable children in this process, thereby leaving the already vulnerable children affected by severe acute malnutrition in extra jeopardy without a fighting chance against the COVID 19 infection.
She said, “Looking beyond the figures you will see actual children who are practically unsure of their next breath. Yet we all live in the community with them, as parents, neighbours, community leaders, business owners, Civil society groups and government. Although we do not physically isolate these children, we isolate them emotionally each time we have a chance to take any decision in favour of them and fail to do so.
According to her, “We just commemorated the world Breastfeeding week, and here we are having another landmark conference on Nutrition. we are not about to stop holding these meetings and having elaborate conversations simply because we have had many before.
“We will only stop when we have stopped the scourge of malnutrition ravaging our children and secured the future of that vulnerable Nigerian child who is at risk of never optimising his mental and physical potentials, when we have created systems where our children can survive, thrive and possess the requisite cognitive ability to handle the future, when our communities understand the need to adopt proper infant and young child feeding practices and wen our Government at all levels back up their commitments by funding nutrition and ensuring that allocations and interventions are duly executed”.
Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, noted that good nutrition is imperative for children to grow to their full potential, stressing that the federal government has spent the sum of N1.8 billion in the last two years for the procurement of RUTF.
Also speaking, a nutrition expert and the Executive Secretary of Civil Society Scaling-up Nutrition in Nigeria (CS-SUNN), Beatrice Eluaka noted that Nigeria apart from having the second-highest number of stunted children in the world, also have two million children suffering from Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM).
Eluaka who noted that with the Covid-19 pandemic, cases of malnutrition have risen in the country, said, “We call on government to return the N800 million RUTF allocation removed from the 2020 budget of the federation as Nigeria runs the risk of increased burden of malnutrition if government allows the emergency situation of Covid-19 to stop them from funding and implementing nutrition programmes and interventions in the country.”