Addressing Funding Gap To Save Millions Of Nigerian Children From Malnutrition

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Recent survey by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) indicates that malnutrition accounts for the death of 2,300 Nigerian children daily.
It also notes that more than 2.5 million children under the age of five are suffering from severe acute malnutrition and are likely to die if adequate funding is not provided to treat them.
Beside this, UNICEF’s Nutrition Advocacy Specialist, Dr Zacharia Fusheini, says that 37 per cent of Nigerian children does not have access to nutritious foods, observing that the country parades the highest number of stunted children in the world.
Fusheini notes that out of the 500,000 children UNICEF targeted for treatment in 2016, only 400,000 were treated due to lack of funds.
In the light of this, stakeholders have continued to call for improved funding of the health sector and nutrition in particular to deal with malnutrition.
According to them, the scourge threatens the growth of the country by silently eliminating children; the crucial class that determines the nation’s future.
But the Chairman, Senate Committee on Health, Dr Lanre Tejuoso, at a recent workshop on malnutrition in Abuja, thanked UNICEF for promising to treat 600,000 malnourished children in Nigeria in 2017 out of the 2.5 million.
He, however, added that the country needed precisely N95 billion to treat the remaining 1.9 million malnourished children.
Tejuoso reminded the participants of Federal Government’s several commitments to addressing inadequate funding in the health sector, noting that not much had been done so far.
He recalled that a law was passed in 2014 to ensure that at least one per cent of the Consolidated Revenue Fund should be allocated to the Basic Health Fund.
“It has been two years and it has not been implemented. As law makers, we are supposed to appropriate fund for every aspect of health and with more focus on nutrition, given the current indices.
“The change we are looking for in health must start by obeying this law as our contribution to encourage development partners and private sector to participate,’’ the chairman said.
Concerned citizens recall that Nigeria signed up to the Scaling-up Nutrition Movement in 2011 and the global Nutrition for Growth Compact in 2013.
According to them, with the agreement, the country is committed to tackling its high rates of malnutrition, but Nigeria has failed to allocate adequate funds to scale up nutrition interventions.
They also recall that Nigeria had on Sept. 8, 2015, adopted the National Strategic Plan of Action on Nutrition from 2014 to 2019.
The policy is expected to reduce stunting by 20 per cent, severe acute malnutrition by 15 per cent and increase exclusive breastfeeding by 50 per cent in 2019. The development came with high expectations.