Nutrition must be approached from all sectors – Expert
Dr Tanko Yusuf Sununu, former Chairman, House Committee on Health, has said that nutrition is multi-sectoral and therefore the country must approach it from all sectors.
Sununu said this on Friday in Abuja at the Accelerating Nutrition Results in Nigeria (ANRiN) Annual Result Conference to learn and share lessons resulting from the implementation of the ANRiN, with a focus on “Innovative Approaches to Strengthening Systems for a Sustainable Whole Government Response”.
Newsmen report that the ANRiN project, with US$232 million in financing from the International Development Association (IDA), World Bank Funds for the poorest countries and the Global Financing Facility for Women, Children and Adolescents (GFF), aims to increase utilisation of quality, cost-effective nutrition services for pregnant women, adolescent girls and under-five-year-old children in selected states in Nigeria.
The project is supported with technical assistance and analysis through Trust Funds financed by GFF, the Power of Nutrition, the Aliko Dangote Foundation, and the Bill Gate Foundation.
He said that there was no committee on nutrition in the National Assembly, therefore there was a need to push for one so that the country can get more funding for nutrition.
He said that stakeholders’ commitment would ensure sustained funding and critical resources for effective nutrition interventions.
He, however, called on Governments at all levels to prioritize nutrition as a key governance and development issue to minimize or eliminate malnutrition in the country.
Dr Ojuolape Solanke, National Programme Manager, ANRiN, said that non-state actors delivered basic nutrition services at the community level, including counselling on exclusive breastfeeding and improving the nutrition status of children.
Solanke said that there was a need for new thinking to solve the problems of nutrition in the country.
“Let’s work together across sectors to improve nutrition and sustain the momentum this project has built both at the state and National levels,” she said. According to her, “we need to prioritize nutrition on our political agenda and create an enabling environment for action. This can be achieved through advocacy efforts by civil society organizations, media campaigns, and political commitment at all levels.”
Mrs Sugra Mahmood, Director, Nutrition, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, said that the ministry partnered with the media to raise awareness of biofortification and biodiverse meals. Mahmood said that the ministry also conducted training on supplementary feedings.
According to Dr Ahmed Abdulwahab, Senior Health Advisor, Nigeria Governors Forum, “instead of looking for where money is, let us see how we can use the funds we have effectively.”
Abdulwahab said to ensure optimisation, the country should allocate the funds it has and use it effectively. He said that budget tagging would not help Nigerians follow the money.
“It will give a deep understanding of where the money is going to inform advocacy,” he said.
Dr Fola Adejumo, Public Financial Management Consultant, said that the Federal Government must effectively manage its finances to implement successful interventions in the country.
Adejumo said that this would require a framework to help allocate resources and balance expenditure and revenue in the country. “We discovered that many of the things coded as nutrition spending were out of the plan.
“This was an issue. With budget tagging, reporting nutrition expenditure and activities become a lot easier. Based on the lessons we have learned, we plan to have more meaningful conversations with key stakeholders to achieve better results.”
This includes representatives from different departments, agencies, and ministries. The quality of data determines the quality of analysis, results, reports, and decisions. “We need to commit to quality data if we want a good public financial system. This starts with recording everything we do,” he advised.
He said that clear and accurate data was essential for effective public finance, noting that the first step was to ensure that data was well-described and captured.
“This will allow us to communicate our ideas effectively and guide resource allocation,” he said.
Dr Ishiyaku Mohammed, Special Advisor to Governor on Budget, Gombe State, said that nutrition stakeholders worked together to come up with a 10-year development plan compliant with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and everyone in the state aligned with the plan. Mohammed said that the state used context-specific images to pass messages across that allowed the media messages to resonate more with the masses. He said that this was to achieve behavioural change so that the communication must stay within context.
Meanwhile, Mrs Chito Nelson, Head of Nutrition and ANRiN Focal Person, Ministry of Finance Budget and National Planning, said that the ANRiN project was the biggest and most effective nutrition flagship programme the country had ever seen.
Nelson said that the project had seen huge investment and significant gains in the country.
She said that the ANRiN project was being implemented in only 12 states that showed interest in the programme, noting that the project was impacting the entire country and had improved nutrition governance and administration.
“To coordinate food and nutrition response, the ANRiN project had a two-speed approach to improving utilisation of high-impact, low-cost nutrition services: delivery of basic nutrition services and stewardship and project management.
“With the support we have gotten from the ANRiN project, we have been able to develop the National Nutrition Dashboard.
“Some 142 schools were given nutrition, WASH and menstrual hygiene education; 6,000 women and adolescents were given nutrition education; and 1,200 women were provided with nutrition-smart income-generating activities equipment,” she said.
Recalls that the 2023 ANRiN conference is the launch of the State of Nutrition Report in Nigeria, highlighting the current food and nutrition landscape in the country.