A Fellow of the Children Investment Fund Foundation, in the United Kingdom, Dr. Mairo Mandara, has insisted that providing nutritious food to children is not doing them favour, but that it is their human right so that they have well-developed brains.
Speaking at a virtual media briefing on the National Nutrition Conference organised by the International Society for Media in Public Health (ISMPH), she noted that the future and development of Nigeria depends on the next generation, hence, issues around nutrition must be taken seriously by the government.
She called on the media and religious leaders, whom, she described as agents of social change, to support the advocacy to ensure that no child is malnourished in Nigeria.
“It is important to know that the future and the development of Nigeria is depended on the next generation.
“With technology and with what it takes to survive in the world these days, no child will be useful if his/her IQ is not very sharp.
“This is because our children will be competing with children from India, US, Australia and other countries.
“Therefore, we cannot have our children have less active brains. The world is all about brain, it is not about muscle power.
“We have to do whatever we have to do to ensure the brain of our children are well developed and that can only be done with good nutrition.
In his presentation, the Country Director, Network for Health Equity and Development (NHED), Dr. Emanuel Sokpo, appealed to the Federal Government to, as a matter of urgency, return and release the N800m earmarked for the procurement of Ready to Use Therapeutic Foods (RUTF) that was removed from the 2020 budget of the Federal Ministry of Health.
RUTF can effectively treat children with Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) at the community level with 95% cure rate.
He advocated for increased awareness among media practitioners and CSO and other stakeholders; increase political commitment for improved funding and timely release; improve logistic management system and regularly share/publish reports and information on results.
On his part, the Visiting Professor of Mass Communication, Caleb University, Lagos, Prof. Adebayo Fayoyin, reiterated that domestic investments in nutrition is key for country ownership and long-term sustainability of programmes.
He, therefore, advocated for strong leadership and coordinated action to prioritise nutrition investments to achieve greater equity and impact for those most in need, insisting that, increase in domestic resources for nutrition have been mixed and marginal at best.
Speaking on the media can be engaged for maximum impact, Prof. Fayoyin said: “Media organizations must commit to strengthen health and development coverage for the life cycle of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the national health development agenda.
“Journalists need to shift some focus on health, science reporting (including a special focus on nutrition).
“A stronger sense of advocacy journalism is necessary. Achieving development outcomes calls for a commitment to advocacy and an activist mindset by the media professionals.
“This calls for media professionals who will use their platforms and skills to promote health and nutrition outcomes.”
While making a commitment on behalf of journalists, the President Association of Nigeria Health Journalists (ANHEJ), Malam Hassan Zaggi, regretted that severely malnourished children constitute a threat to the growth and development of the nation.
He called on the government to put in place an ingenious investment model for nutrition that will be attractive to the private sector in the country.
ANHEJ, Malam Zaggi said, is committed to supporting the SAM Consortium to achieve its objective of reducing child malnutrition to the barest minimum in the country.