Fight Against Malnutrition: CSOs Fault Niger Govt For Withholding Funds

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Governor Sani Bello of Niger State
By; BALA B. BITRUS, Kaduna
For two consecutive years, (2017 and the current fiscal year) Niger State Government has, despite a budgetary provision of over N226,964,416 million to curb malnutrition, especially amongst children and minors, no single kobo has been released in respect of the fight against malnutrition, the Civil Society-Scalingup Nutrition in Nigeria (CS-SUNN)’s has revealed.
At a forum for media engagement aimed at highlighting nutrition situation in the state, the coalition of CSOs which met in Minna, painted a grim picture in the crusade against a wide spread, and increasing cases of malnutrition across the state.
It said there was an urgent need for the state government to give effect to it’s claim of doing the right thing to better the lots of children and minors in the state.
The group therefore called on the state government to release funds allocated to check malnutrition since the inception of the present administration to check stunted growth amongst children, underweight and death amongst children.  
 
The CS-SUNN noted that though the Niger state government had pledged commitments towards addressing malnutrition, but data obtained by CS-SUNN’s Trend Analysis of Health and Nutrition Budget in Nigeria 2014 – 2018 indicated that no money had been released at all in the period under review.
 
Speaking at a one day media engagement on Partnership for Improving Nigeria Nutrition Systems, (PINNS) held in Minna, Executive Secretary of CS-SUNN. Beatrice Eluaka lamented over the level of malnutrition “as very alarming”.
 
Eluaka herped on the importance of effective monitoring by the media to ensure an untainted reportage’ that could galvanized positive results.
She said monitoring and reporting of nutrition related issues via “Budget-Trend-Analysis-Infographics showed that Niger state government had in 2017 budgeted N89,218,166 for nutrition but regretted that no fund was released to actualise the budgetary provision.
 
She further painted a gloomy picture that more and more children were getting exposed to mental and physical retardation as government’s non challant attitudes and poor fundings continues.
According to Beatrice, the situation remained the same in 2018. Her words “Niger state government had for the current fiscal year, budgeted N137,746,250.00 to enhance nutrition amongst children but at the moment, with barely two months to end of the year, no money has been released yet”.
 
She said the refusal by the state government to release funds to address malnutrition amongst the targeted group in the past few years, had made the situation worst as available data from the National Nutrition and Health Survey (NNHS 2014 and 2015) indicates marginal rise in the trend and with its possible consequences.
 
She pointed out that the rate of malnutrition, which has continued to increase, was a key contributor to both infant and maternal mortality and morbidity, poor cognitive development and increased severity of diseases affecting under five years old in Niger state.
“These category are at the risk of physical and intellectual impairments if the trend is not checked. The consequences of this, is that it could spell doom for our country’s future leaders” she warned.
 
“In 2015, stunting rate increased to 38%, wasting rate to 6.1% with underweight reducing slightly to 17.3% but the latest Multiple Cluster Indicator, (MICS 2017) shows a slight decrease in the rate of stunting to 37.3%, wasting and underweight increasing to 24.3% and 8.8% respectively” according to the statistics she read out.
 
Beatrice Eluaka explained that the purpose of the Media Engagement on PINNS issues and the call to action, was to amongst other things improve enhanced government’s funding for nutrition and push firward policy funding on the governments’ agenda particularly states like Niger which has been defaulting.
 
While calling on governor Abubarkar Sani Bello led administration to ensure immediate release of the N137.7 million budgeted for nutrition in this year’s fiscal plans, she tasked journalists to step up reports on nutrition to draw the attention of policy makers and relevant stakeholders on how to curb malnutrition in the state.
 
She called on the state government to provide clarity in its budgeting for nutrition to include preventive interventions like promoting nutrition education to ensure children’s optimal feeding practices, staple food fortification and maternal nutrition programmes to prevent more children from becoming malnourished.
 
The CS-SUNN is a Non-Governmental, non-profit making coalition of organizations with a shared vision to transform Nigeria into a country where every citizen has food which fortified with nutrition. It seeks to strengthen governance, effective coordination, promoting accountability amongst others.

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