Joe Effiong, Uyo,
United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) has called behavioral change among policymakers and families across the South South-South and southeast zones of Nigeria in order to fight against malnutrition.
The Rivers Field Officer for UNICEF, Dr. Guy Yogo made the assertion in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital on Thursday at a four-day workshop on strengthening capacity to mainstream nutrition in state government investment agenda.
The “Community of Practice” workshop which has as its theme “Harnessing developmental potentials of Akwa Ibom children and adolescents through investment in maternal, infant young child and adolescent nutrition, called on every actor to play their individual role in ensuring that the nutritional need of Nigerian children are met.
Yogo who lamented that Nigeria is still battling the issue of stunting among children in the 21st century, called for holistic approach and commitment by all concerned, since “fighting malnutrition calls for a holistic approach from individuals, families and government.”
“There is a lot of misconception about malnutrution and or undernutrition, it is a complex issue, we living in the south actually believe we do not have food insecurity issues. But malnutrition and undernutrition is still here with us. We have spoken about the rate of stunting, its a big issue, it is not about the quantity of food, its all about the quality of food and quality of intervention.
“Why is it that children are wasting? Look at the open defecation rate in the south, it is very high. So we still need to have good hygiene, promotion of welfare practices in terms of sanitation, in order to cut down malnutrition and undernutrition.
“We are however hopeful because there are lots of opportunities. We have seen a lot of political will on the part of the Akwa Ibom State government. But there is however the need to put in place some interventions we believe are of low cost but with high impact. These interventions would help us to reduce malnutrition rate”. He said
The Head of Media and Communications, Enugu Field Office of UNICEF, Mrs Ijeoma Onuoha-Ogwe tasked both the conventional and the new media to carry out an agenda setting crusade to hold the society accountable for the malnutrition rate in the country.
While recalling that Akwa Ibom was the first state in Nigeria to domesticate the Child Right Act, Mrs Onuoha-Ogwe however challenged media professionals in the state to investigate the extent of implementation of the act.
“The media have to work to ensure that all sectors of the Nigerian populace are well acquainted with what is expected of all the critical stakeholders to fight malnutrition. The society and media must always be accountable for the children around them. Help to ensure that a child has adequate nutritional upbringing”. She said
Speaking on the effort so far made by the Akwa Ibom State government, the Commissioner for Women Affairs and Agriculture, Dr Gloria Edet disclosed that the state government had, in the 2019 budgetary allocation made provision for nutrition, such provision, she said was distributed into 10 MDAs in the state.
Edet said the state government has so far been taking funds from such budgetary provision to render assistance to the less privileged as well as provide some support to pregnant woman in the state.
The commissioner who frowned on last year’s report of the National Health Demographic Survey which rated Akwa Ibom high on the number of stunted children, called on international organizations and other donor agencies who intend to carry out research in the state to do so in collaboration with the state to avoid hasty generalization, which may not exactly represent the true position of the issue being researched. END