Nigeria: National Nutrition Summit
Nigeria’s first National Nutrition Summit on Nutrition may have come and gone, however, the impact of the summit will stay with us for a long time and most likely change the nutrition landscape of Africa’s most populous nation forever.
Organised by the Federal Ministry of Health, with support from Save the Children and other nutrition partners, the summit with the theme ‘Scaling Up Nutrition in Nigeria: catalyst for achieving the MDGs‘ was aimed at identifying, prioritising and discussing major challenges with nutrition in Nigeria and recommending policy and programme actions to address them, as well as developing a road map for Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN).
Addressing the problem
Declaring the summit open, the Minister of State for Health, Dr Muhammad Ali Pate decried “the high rate of under-five malnutrition in the country is a major cause of under-five mortality”.
He pledged the commitment of the Nigerian government to “address the nutrition problem, noting that the nations’ health sector would focus on preventive measures rather than curative in which nutrition is a driving factor”.
In her goodwill message, Susan Grant, the Country Director of Save the Children, pleaded with stakeholders to invest in tackling child malnutrition.
“We must work together to invest in both human and financial resources to tackle malnutrition, which is a cause and result of poverty. We must encourage exclusive breastfeeding to help reduce malnutrition in children,” she said.
The high point of the summit was the investiture of three illustrious Nigerian citizens: the Asagba of Asaba, Professor Obi Edozien; the Emir of Argungu, Alhaji Samaila Muhamadu Meira; and Mrs Maryam Uwais as national nutrition champions to take the lead in advocating for improved nutrition in the country.
In her speech, Mrs Uwais said, “A lot of mothers are ignorant of the nutritional benefits of locally grown food so it is up to this group to empower and educate young girls so they can use this information to raise their families.”
Technical sessions covered topics such as improving nutrition governance, mobilising resources for nutrition, mainstreaming nutrition in national agricultural investment planning, nutrition programming and coordination and the role of the private sector in SUN.
After three days of intensive deliberations and knowledge sharing, the summit ended with 12 recommendations, including:
- There is need to provide adequate public funding to implement high-impact, cost-effective nutrition interventions at all levels and at scale.
- The existing National Policy on Food and Nutrition, as well as the National Plan of Action on Food and Nutrition, should be revised.
- Government at all levels should drive the accelerated implementation of the plan of action.
- Government agendas and documents should have key nutrition interventions throughout.