UNICEF wants Enugu to invest more in nutrition

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By Regis Anukwuoji/Enugu.

United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has called on Enugu State government to invest more in nutrition.

UNICEF made the call in a one day pre-budget high level engagement meeting for state executives, legislature and policy makers in the state, organized by Enugu State Ministry of Budget and Planning in collaboration with UNICEF.

Maureen Zubbie- Okolo, Officer- in- Charge UNICEF Enugu Field Office, who represented the organization, said 15 per cent of children under five years in Enugu State is stunted according to NDHS 2018. 

According to her, the situation is a call for the state to actually invest in nutrition, not just the Ministry of Health but that all the stakeholders need to come together both at the level of the executive and legislature to ensure that nutrition is placed on the agenda .

In terms of implementing policies she said that all sectors need to be involved because to address the issue of malnutrition needs multi-sector approach beyond just the Ministry of Health. “You have the ministry of education, information, media, CSOs all coming together to ensure that they discuss on nutrition continues” she said.

She also narrated what could lead to the poor state of nutrition for children to be largely attributed to poor maternal, infant and young child feeding practice during the first 1000 days from pregnancy to two years of age”.

She said that only 7.8 per cent receive the minimum acceptable diet (NNHS, 2018) less than one fifth children 0-5 months are exclusivity breastfed (MIC2016).

Zubby Okolo explained that UNICEF is committed to working with all its partners in government and other UN agencies, the media as well as civil societies and the private sector to help propel the global movement forward.

Addressing the participants the Enugu State, Commissioner for Budget and Planning, David Okelue Ugwunta, promised  to ensure that all budgets from various ministries aimed at improving the nutrition status of the state will be reviewed upwards.

“We will make sure we try our best to coordinate all other members of the committee, from ministry of health, agencies, information, agriculture, water resources education science and technology among  others ,we will carry out all positions in the budget”  he said.

Ugwunta noted that with the outcome of the meeting his ministry would make sure that all those things that has to do with nutrition would be adequately provided for in the budget and where they can not pin them down in various implementing NDAs, they would have pull of fund under the ministry of Budget and planning where the implementing agencies can draw fund from and continue to engage in their activities as it relates to nutrition to avoid malnutrition.

“If you look at the statistics’ The Nigerian governors forum (NGF) is telling  us that Enugu required about N1.2billion to solve the issue of malnutrition in the state  , that if we do not spend N1.2 billon now to solve what we have at hand that by next year or two years time we are going to spend double that amount. so who would not want to spend less now and and get maximum impact”.

He promised also that the issue of awareness, prevention supplement with vitamin A and all those supplement needed by pregnant women and children to grow would be taken care of by the year 2022.

 Ugwunta  commended United Nations Children’s Fund ( UNICEF) for always partnering with the state government not only on nutrition challenges but other  issues concerning mother and children in the state pointing out that UNICEF engagement in the state has started yielding more fruits.