By Maurice Okafor, Enugu.
The Enugu State Government says it has approved a counterpart fund for value-added foods to treat and check under-nutrition and stunted growth in all children in the state.
“The value-added nutritious food is for children from zero to 59 months”, Gov. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi said on Thursday in Enugu.
Ugwuanyi, who was represented by his deputy, Mrs Cecilia Ezeilo, said this while declaring open a one-day High-Level Partnership and Coordination Meeting with Stakeholders and Policy Makers on Investment in Nutrition.
The theme of the meeting is: “Prioritising Investment in Maternal, Infant, Young Child and Adolescent Nutrition”.
He said that the growing level of stunt growth, which is getting about one to every five children, must be checked; and the government remained fully committed to doing that.
According to him, the state government will shore up the nutritional needs of children under five and this will further reduce infant mortality to the barest minimum in the state.
“The state government is grateful to UNICEF, other international and local health partners as well as other stakeholders in ensuring that the state gets it right and rank among the states with the highest well-fed and well-nourished children in the country,” he said.
Speaking, Mrs Juliet Chiluwe, Chief of Field Office UNICEF Enugu, noted that UNICEF was committed to partnering with Enugu State and with other relevant partners and stakeholders to achieve the agenda of well-fed and healthy children.
Chile noted that the meeting offers an opportunity for awareness creation and high-level advocacy on the importance of nutrition to the survival and general well-being of women and children and its impact on productivity, economic growth and national development.
“The event is very strategic as policymakers from the state and LGAs, relevant Federal stakeholders and the private sector are present to reinforce government support for the state to expand the scope of the nutrition programme.
“This programme, which has been at the three pilots LGAs since 2019, roll out planned strategies and community innovations to tackle nutrition issues, especially in the first 1000 days, with expectations of breaking the inter-generational cycle of under-nutrition within Enugu State.
“Available evidence shows that getting the right nutrients at the right time is critical.
“Enugu State has stunting (growth) rate of 15 per cent, approximately 147,816 children are shorter than expected height for their age, with associated poor cognitive functions,” she noted.
In a goodwill message, Chief John Uruakpa, Director, Head Micronutrients Deficiency Control in the Federal Ministry of Health, lauded Enugu State Government for creating a functional multi-sectoral stakeholders committee on food and nutrition.
Uruakpa noted that “countries are rated according to their ability to feed their citizens and ensure that they are healthy to enhance national optimal health and productivity”.
“The issue of tackling malnutrition, under-nutrition and stunt growth must be taken seriously. We have Micro Nutrient Powder (MNP) for children already stunted to recover and Ready-made to Use Therapeutic Food for supporting nutrition of children not to get under-nutrition.”
“There is a need for the continual coordination of the stakeholders and we should take this advocacy and action to the rural communities and primary healthcare centres,” he said.
The state’s Commissioner for Budget and Planning, Dr David Ugwunta, said that the high-level meeting was to identify opportunities and challenges in tackling the under-nutrition of children.
“From this meeting, we should come out with concrete and actionable plans and advocacy programmes that will be followed up and implemented to get positive desirable outcomes,” Ugwunta said.
The Commissioner for Health, Prof. Ikechukwu Obi, noted that a proper nutritional balance diet for all residents, especially children, was an integral part of optimal health and re-emphasis the quality of life.
Obi noted that it was necessary to give the residents essential health and welfare to carry out their basic activities in life.
Igwe Lawrence Agubuzu, Chairman of the Traditional Rulers Council of Enugu State, encouraged the government and her ministries to support needed investment to aid low-income families, schools and communities to optimise good feeding.
“With the current collaborative efforts of all, I sincerely believe that we can get it right and ensure the right cognitive and physical development of our children,” Agubuzu said.
The meeting was also attended by representatives of the Ministry of Education; Ministry of Information; Enugu State Primary Health Care Development Agency; Enugu State Agency for Universal Health Coverage and civil society organizations among others.