Malnutrition: UNICEF pledges continued collaboration with Jigawa govt. to improve lives of children, women

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By Muhammad Nasir Bashir

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), has reiterated its determination to collaborate with Jigawa Government to improve the lives of women and children in the state.

Mr Bhanu Pathak, Chief of Field Office, UNICEF Field Office, Bauchi gave the assurance at a two-day Advocacy and Capacity Building workshop on Nutrition for Jigawa State House of Assembly legislators in Kano on Thursday.

Pathak, represented by the Nutrition Specialist in Bauchi Field office, Philomena Irene, said the recent SMART Survey revealed that Jigawa still had stunting rate of 54 per cent.

According to him, this means that in every 10 children, at least five of them are in danger of poor brain and internal organs development.

He pointed out that investing in the early years was one of the smartest investments a state could make to break the cycle of poverty, address inequality, and boost productivity later in life.

The chief field officer also said that millions of young children were not reaching their full potential because of inadequate nutrition, lack of early stimulation and learning, and exposure to stress.

According to him, investments in the physical, mental, and emotional development of children before birth until they enter primary school are critical for the future productivity of individuals and for the economic competitiveness of the state.

Pathak added that investment in nutrition, which he described as cost effective would help reverse this negative trend as well as boost our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as a country.

He said that the World Bank in its 2017 report revealed that for every N1,000 invested on nutrition would yield a N16,000 return.

This he noted was an indication that nutrition was for development of the nation and therefore any resources invested in it was not a loss, but a boost for the economy.

“UNICEF feels honoured to be invited to present a goodwill message on this important event and would like to thank you for the opportunity.

“Legislative arm of the government in recent times has exhibited support to improve the health and nutritional wellbeing of children and women in Jigawa.

“Following the collaborative and successful Dialogues and Meetings with the House Committees on Health, Appropriation and Public Account in 2017 and 2018 which has led to increase in funds allocation at the State and LGA levels for nutrition which is greatly attributed to your collaborative efforts.

“While we congratulate the House on your effort, Jigawa still has a long way to go in addressing the menace of malnutrition.

“Recent SMART Survey revealed that Jigawa still has a stunting rate of 54 per cent which means in every 10 children, at least five of them are in danger of poor brain and internal organs development.

“Therefore, in fulfilling its mandate of ensuring child survival, development and protection, UNICEF is happy to continue to collaborate with the Jigawa State Government to improve the lives of children and women in the state.’’

According to him, we are indeed gathered here today in pursuit of that commitment.

Pathak further said that about half of child mortality in Nigeria was attributable to malnutrition, saying that good nutrition played a leading role in averting deaths of children.

The official noted that ensuring proper nutrition of children required a life-cycle approach whereby adequate nutrition commences from conception to newborn until the baby grows into an adolescent and then an adult.

“Negligence and lack of care for the girl-child during childhood and adolescence complicates the health and nutritional status of the individual.

“That is why UNICEF has identified nutrition as one of the priority interventions in Nigeria and thus the support for developing an institutional framework to address issues of nutrition,’’ the official added.

According to him, UNICEF through funding from its donors DFID, has supported Jigawa government to domesticate institutional framework to address nutrition issues in the state.

Pathak said this was done through the Jigawa State Nutrition Policy which includes Jigawa State Cost Multi Sectoral Nutrition Plan and Jigawa State Social and Behavioral Change Communication (SBCC) Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding practices.

He said that the documents were detailed roadmap designed by the government and people of the state.

“It is our belief that these two-day meeting will serve as a capacity building opportunity for Jigawa State Legislators so that they can provide strategic leadership in investing in children in the state.

“Legislators have a very important role to play in appropriation, legislation, accountability, representation and oversight toward improving maternal and child’s health.

“We sincerely hope this meeting will deepen legislators’ understanding of nutrition, enhance participants’ understanding of legislative functions and equip them to track progress on commitments which will be made at the end of the meeting,’’ he said.

The UNICEF official further urged the legislators to appropriate adequate funds to the health sector as they prepare the 2019 budget.

“We implore you to make adequate provision of funds as we prepare the 2019 budget. We plead with you to use your oversight role to track the release and implementation of allocated budget for Health and Nutrition in 2020 budget.

“At this juncture, permit me to say a very big congratulation to Jigawa State Government on charting a pathway to address nutrition issues by developing and formally inaugurating the policy today,’’ he said.

In his key note address, Alhaji Idris Garba, the Speaker, Jigawa State House of Assembly, promised that the House would continue to be a watchdog in the implementation of policies that would improve the lives of children, women and people of the state.

NAN reports that the workshop, with the theme: “The role of Lawmakers in the Implementation of Jigawa State Nutrition Policy,’’ is organised by Jigawa State Primary Healthcare Development Agency (JSPHCDA), in collaboration with UNICEF. (NAN)