By Tony Obiechina, Abuja
Nigeria invests only 0.02 per cent of its National Budget on nutrition as against four per cent recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), according to a federal government official.
The Director, Social Development, Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, A.B Sa’adu who disclosed this, regretted that even with the low investment, “what is allocated in the budget is not disbursed and what is disbursed is not always used for nutrition”.
Sa’adu was speaking at a sensitisation workshop organised for journalists on “Basic Nutrition Issues” by the ministry and facilitated by Breakthrough Action as part of the National Nutrition Week in Abuja.
Represented by deputy director in the ministry, Mrs Chito Nelson, Sa’adu noted that as a result of the low budgetary allocation for nutrition, the country records the highest number of stunted children in Africa.
He said, “Globally, Nigeria ranks second after India on the number of stunted children. Malnutrition is associated with 59 per cent of deaths among children. High prevalence of stunting is likely due to deficiencies in key micro-nutrients.
“Fifty per cent (50%) of nonpregnant women of reproductive age are anaemic while vitamin A deficiency in children 6-59 months is 71 per cent. Nine of the 36 states contribute to over 50 per cent stunted children in Nigeria.
“Nigeria invests 0.02 per cent of national budget on nutrition while 4 per cent is recommended and what is allocated is not disbursed and what is disbursed is not always used for nutrition”.
On the involvement of his ministry, in the Nutrition Week, Sa’adu noted the the Ministry of Finance Budget and National Planning, doubles as the secretariat to both National Council on Nutrition (NCN) and the National Committee on Food and Nutrition (NCFN).
According to him, it serves as the national focal point for co-ordination and harmonisation of all food and nutrition-related policies/programmes being implemented by the various Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and partners working on food and nutrition as outlined in the National Policy on Food and Nutrition.
“The Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning in collaboration with the Nutrition Society of Nigeria (NSN) and relevant nutrition stakeholders since 2016, have been organising Nutrition Week in order to encourage healthy living through nutrition education and creating public awareness on dangers of malnutrition.
“The week is also a national platform to address nutrition issues affecting young children, adolescents, adults and the elderly as well as nutrition in emergency situation” he said.
Key papers titled, “Basic Issues in Nutrition -Overview”, “Nutrition Situation in Nigeria”, “The Media As Drivers for Positioning Nutrition on National Agenda, were presented at the one-day workshop, with the theme, Nutrition The Bedrock of Economic Development.
According to the organizers, objectives of the workshop are: *Raise awareness of journalists on food security and nutrition topics in Nigeria;*Raise awareness of the impact of malnutrition on the country’s health and economic wellbeing;* Enhance capacity and skills of media personnel as critical advocates for nutrition.