According to global indices, over 2 million children under the ages of 5 are currently suffering from “Severe Acute Malnutrition” with only a privileged 2 out of every 10 opportuned to be receiving treatment for this life threatening situation.
malnutrition continue to be a major cause of death and ill health, as it contributes to over 45% of under-five mortality. Another measure of chronic malnutrition which is of great concern is stunting. It is indeed a huge concern that in Cross River State 1 out of every 5 (189,160) children under-five years in the State is stunted (shorter than the expected height for their age), while only 24% initiate breastfeeding within one hour of birth.
With this figures, Nigeria is said to account for the second highest prevalence rate of children with stunted growth globally with a further scary projection of a worsened figure if authorities do not develop formidable policies to address this issue.
On a benchmark of accurately reducing malnutrition and deliberately exonerating Cross River State from adding to the nation’s Scarry figures, Government agencies, the private sector and some agencies of the united nations have met in Calabar, the Cross River State capital to buy into the newly developed policy framework seeking more actions against Malnutrition among infants and young children in the state.
The Cross River State Planning Commission on food and nutrition in conjunction with United Nation System and United Nation’s International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) has formally charted a formidable avenue on investment in Maternal, Infant and Young Child Nutrition in the State.
Wife of the state Governor, Dr. Linda Ayade while declaring the symposium open, said malnutrition has been a challenge to the health of many especially the vulnerable in the society.
Dr Ayade who was represented by Hon Mrs Lawrencia Ita, said the need to invest resources in the fight against malnutrition cannot be over emphasized as she likened malnutrition to a pandemic which if not well managed, could affect the well being of the child.
She also harped on the need to increase health sector and other ministries budget, while calling on the line MDAs to ensure nutrition is captured in their budget.
She also implicated poverty as a major cause of malnutrition and highlighted some of the measures and innovations His Excellency, Senator Prof. Ben Ayade has brought in, such as employment, empowerment of women and youth, among others.
She further stated that tackling malnutrition is a collective effort as she called on the involvement of private sector. She reiterated Government’s commitment to tackle malnutrition, through various health interventions as well as investing in the health sector.
In his remarks Speaker of the Cross River State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Eteng Williams assured the representatives of unifying partners of a robust cooperation and contribution between them and the State Legislative arm of Government, pointing out that the issue would be prominently captured in subsequent budgets.
In an address, the Director-General, Cross River State Primary Healthcare Development Agency (CRSPHCDA), Dr. Janet Ekpenyong expressed optimism and excitement for the various roles played by key drivers in ensuring the actualization of the set goals.
She acknowledged the danger faced by the vulnerable children, stressing that they deserve adequate attention in order to ensure a better future free from incessant life-threatening scourge even as she charged NGOs and MDAs not to only see the dialogue as a continuum but incorporate nutrition in their budget so as to inform futuristic relevance and safety.
Dr. Ekpenyong who enumerated poverty, eating of unbalanced meals among others as the major causes attributable to malnutrition, noted that when stakeholders key into the State government’s policy on food and nutrition, the envisaged set goals, multiplier effect/benefits would be speedily achieved.
She reiterated the state government commitment to tackle malnutrition by ensuring full implementation of the policy and health campaigns such as Maternal newborn and child Health week and other programmes to mitigate malnutrition issues.
On her part, the Commissioner for International Development Cooperation, Dr Inyang Asibong disclosed that a child with an unbalanced diet is prone to stunted growth as such nutritional dieting remain the only panacea to a healthy life and Nation building.
She lauded UNICEF for their support, describing it as worthwhile.
In her reaction, the UNICEF Enugu field office , Ms Maria
thanked all and sundry for a proper dialogue expressing confidence that the workshop would afford drivers and beneficiaries to harness the knowledge gain on their respective MDAs and NGOs. She pledged UNICEF unwavering support to the state while appealing for more investment to sustain the gains made.
The Chief Economic Adviser to the Governor, Mr Francis Ntamu, who was also the convener, thanked Her Excellency, the Honourable Speaker and other dignitaries for their commitment and promises to ensure full implementation of the state nutritional framework as it will guide our efforts towards ending malnutrition in the state.
The event also featured panel discussions by dignitaries, Technocrats, the academia and top government functionaries including the deputy leader and chairman House Committee on education, Rt Hon Hillary Bisong, the chairman Committee on gender, Rt Hon Maria Akwaji, the permanent secretary SMOH, Dr Iwara Iwara, amongst others.