By; ALEX UANGBAOJE, Kaduna
Worried by the burden of Micronutrent Deficiency among children and women in Nigeria, the Civil Society- Scaling Up Nutrition in Nigeria (CS-SUNN), has urged government at levels to evaluate various programmes addressing micronutrients deficiencies in the country.
The move, CS-SUNN said, would provide valuable insight on their progress and effectiveness as well as a roadmap on future priorities. Adding “there is need to scale-up provision of basic package of nutrition services across Primary Health care centres in Nigeria.”
Executive Secretary, CS-SUNN, Beatrice Eluaka, made the call in Kaduna, on Thursday at a One Day Roundtable Media on Micro-nutrient Deficiency Control on collaboration with the Federal Ministry Of Health And The Federal Ministry of Agriculture & Rural Development.
About 2 billion people all over the world estimatedly affected by Micronutrient Deficiency (MND) globally and Nigeria has an alarming prevalence of micronutrient deficiencies that has persisted over decades.
MND is a major public health problem caused by a lack of essential vitamins and minerals in diets, which the body requires in very small amounts to survive and thrive. Micro-nutrients include minerals and vitamins and play crucial roles in human nutrition including prevention and treatment of various diseases.
Vitamins are necessary for energy production, immune function, blood clotting and other functions while minerals play an important role in growth, bone health, fluid balance and several other processes. Adequate intake of micronutrients particularly Iron, Vitamin A, Iodine, Zinc from conception to age 24 months is critical for child growth and mental development.
According to Eluaka, “CS-SUNN is not oblivious of strategies and guidelines put in place by government to address the burden of Micronutrient Deficiencies, such strategies as Vitamin A supplementation, Zinc Supplementation, Micronutrient Powders, Iron-folic acid supplementation, nutrition education on Bio-fortified foods and the National Guidelines on Micronutrient Deficiency Control.
“The above disturbing statistics however, point to the fact that current effort towards the achievement of robust nutrition goals in the country is slow. This could be as a result of implementation and funding gaps rather than a lack of strategies and guidelines and further indicates that stronger political will and commitment on the part of government are required to deliver on the gains of micronutrient-focused programmes in the country, particularly in Kaduna state.”
She called on government to embark on massive sensitization, education and awareness creation to provoke behavioural changes that will promote optimal Infant and Young Child feeding practices in communities in Kaduna State (like Early Initiation of breastfeeding, Exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life and adequate complementary feeding) are critical to combating the MND menace.
“Additionally, provision of routine services in Primary Health Care centers will promote distribution of Micronutrient powder, Iron/Folic Acid supplements and Zinc including Vitamin A supplementation for Pregnant Women and Children respectively. We call on state governments including the Kaduna state government to scale-up not only the provision and distribution of these supplements to hard- to- reach areas and across health facilities during the MNCH week but also counselling to ensure compliance. We urge Kaduna residents and Nigerians to diversify their diet and to ensure adequate nutrition by consuming a wide range of foods, including vegetables, proteins and fruits to improve their nutritional status.
“CS-SUNN remains committed to advancing Nigeria’s MNDC and food fortification agenda for improved nutritional status of women, children and vulnerable groups. The alliance supported a stakeholders’ meeting where a roadmap for the review of the country’s existing MNDC guidelines was developed and commitment generated by partners to fund the roadmap.
“The alliance also underscores the importance of coordination among Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) delivering micronutrient-entrenched interventions. In line with this, CS-SUNN also supported some State Committees on Food and Nutrition including the Kaduna State Committee on Food and Nutrition to develop and cost their plans.
“We commend the Kaduna State Government for the current drive towards tackling malnutrition in the state especially for establishing functional CMAM Centres in 14 LGAs, setting up of nutrition corners and community support groups to promote nutrition education for dietary diversification and for creating budget lines in some line ministries.
“We however call for releases of these funds with specific funds allotted to interventions around micronutrient powder, biofortification, iron folate supplementation and Vitamin A supplementation among others and most especially for sustainability and building on the gains so far made.
“We urge the media to step-up reportage on factual issues around micronutrient deficiencies to attract policy makers and concerned stakeholders to take the right steps towards curbing malnutrition in Nigeria.”