The 14th Emir of Kano, Muhammad Sanusi II, has spent most of his time speaking out about malnutrition. For him, the federal government is not doing enough to combat the threat, hence the reason for the constant warning.
A child who is malnourished in the first 1,000 days of life is already dead; This child can never become a doctor, computer scientist, lawyer, etc. just because the brain is gone, Sanusi said, adding: “Once we understand the impact of malnutrition on human capital in this country, we will invest more in combating it now, to secure the future of Nigeria.”
There is no doubt that poor diet in the early formative years led to significant morbidity, mortality, and delayed intellectual and motor development, although several studies have shown that in the long term it leads to impairments in intellectual functioning, work capacity, reproductive capacity, and general health.
For this reason, the World Health Organization has identified malnutrition as one of the most critical global burdens of disease in the world, causing at least nine million deaths in children under the age of five each year. Nigeria bears much of the burden as it has the second highest burden of underdeveloped children in the world and a prevalence rate of 32 percent in children under the age of five.
Lagos state, one of the world’s fast-growing cities, which generated N127 billion and N267.23 billion respectively in the first quarter of 2021, is not immune to malnutrition, according to the Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey (NHDS 2018) report ) showed 6.4 percent of the state’s children are wasted, 17.2 percent are underdeveloped, and 13.3 percent are underweight.
“The NDHS report shows that malnutrition is not only a problem in the northern part of the country, but throughout Nigeria, including Lagos State,” said Civil Society Scaling-Up Nutrition Nigeria (CS-SUNN) Executive Secretary. Okoronkwo Sunday reported on LEADERSHIP Sunday.
Steps to combat the threat
To help combat malnutrition in Lagos State, Sunday announced that CS-SUNN is currently in the state to assist the State Treasury Department in developing an Annual Operational Plan (AOP) drawn from the state-specific Multisectoral Action Plan on Nutrition, among other things .
Currently the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources; Ministry of Economic Planning and Budget; Ministry of Information and Strategy; Ministry of Education; Lagos State Universal Basic Education Board; Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH); Ministry of Youth and Social Development; Ministry of Women’s Affairs and Poverty Alleviation; Ministry of Health; Department of Local Government and Community Affairs; The Department of Agriculture and the Lagos State Primary Health Care Board now have a budget line for nutrition, the executive secretary announced.
Having a budget line means MDAs are allocated a certain amount of money to fund the five-year strategic diet action plan, Sunday said, applauding the state government for the achievement.
“The state government has consistently increased allocations for nutritional intervention programs since 2014. For example, the Lagos state budget for nutrition in 2014 was less than N20 million and most of the nutrition lineage MDAs had no budget to fund nutritional intervention programs, even though they play a large role in reducing malnutrition in the state.
“However, in 2022 the budget increased to over N268.5 million. Although budget performance in the third quarter is still at 17 percent, we hope that the government would have released more funds to all MDAs before the end of the year.”
As part of a drive for transparency in the state’s disbursement and use of the fund, a worker, social development, federal ministry of finance, budget and regional planning, Julius Likuna, told LEADERSHIP Sunday that the federal government, with support from CS -SUNN, has launched a Assessment tool developed to track lineage MDAs and identify those who are workers to focus on those who are not working to enable the state to address the problem of malnutrition.
“The tool will also help us easily identify those MDAs with budget lines and those without budget lines, those who have enough and those who don’t, so we can now make time for advocacy to see that they are.” have a budget line for nutrition and enough money to run their intervention programs,” he added.
With support from CS-SUNN, Likuna announced: “We developed the assessment tools in collaboration with five priority countries where civil society is active. Currently, the tool is a national tool to be deployed in all 36 states including the Federal Capital Territory. We started in the state of Lagos, the pioneer state in domesticating the tool. Once we get it right, we will escalate it to other states in the federation.”
Lagos state is indeed moving in the right direction to tackle malnutrition, but the N268.5 million allocated to nutrition in 2022 is not enough to tackle the threat in the state, Sunday said, urging the state government and key stakeholders to put in place what is needed to reduce the burden of malnutrition in the state.
The total amount required to fund the nutritional intervention programs in the state-specific multi-sectoral action plan is estimated to be over N200 billion, executive secretary CS-SUNN announced, adding that it will cost the state N60 billion for each year, by a total of N60 billion to achieve optimal nutrition.
“N60 billion is huge, as is the current burden of malnutrition in the state. For example, in 2018 the NHDS revealed that the state has 2.2 percent of its children with severe acute malnutrition (SAM), a condition that can be fatal if not treated within a year.
“Lagos has a population of approximately 28,000,000 and children under five make up 18 percent of that number. If you take 18 percent of 28,000,000, you have 5,040,000 under five children in the state. 2.2 percent of 5,040,000, or 110,880 children, are living with SAM and have less than a year to either survive or die.
“Treating one SAM patient would require $106, which includes sourcing ready-to-use therapeutic food, housing and other logistics. If you convert that to naira and use $460 per naira, you get about N48,760. Multiplying that number by 110,880 children living with SAM, the state would need to budget about N5 billion to save the lives of these children. This is for one procedure only. The state still has to budget for vitamin A supplements, infant and young child nutrition (IYCF) and preventive measures such as food fortification,” Sunday said.
Bridging the financial gap
Nigeria is facing a financial crisis and Lagos is also affected, but there are several ways to mobilize funds to fill the financial gap in tackling malnutrition in the state, stressed the CS-SUNN executive secretary.
For example, the strategic action plan is a strategy to mobilize resources in Lagos state, Sunday said, adding that there are industries, companies and philanthropists ready to contribute to humanitarian projects such as tackling malnutrition. All the state government needs to do is put together a team that will engage those people and get them to help reach that enormous sum, he said.
“What CS-SUNN is pushing for is that the government has the political will, which is key. We must get to the point where we can all agree that malnutrition is a major challenge and if not addressed would cost the state of Lagos both now and in the future. In the immediate future we will lose so many children who are potential leaders and in the future most children will be underdeveloped.
“Stunting not only affects the growth of the child or the height of the child during their growing season, it also affects brain development and if that child’s brain is not developed it will reduce that child’s potential to contribute useful for the growth and development of Lagos State.
“My question to the government is what will our future be like if, for example, in Lagos state, out of 10 children, two of them are underdeveloped and nothing is done to reduce this? The implication is that the number of children who have the brains, skills and health needed to make a meaningful contribution to Lagos State productivity will be limited.
“The future of the state is obvious if nothing is done. I believe investing in nutrition is a worthwhile and wise investment. For example, if you deposit $1, you get $16 back, according to World Bank research. I therefore call on the Lagos State Government to take on the prosecution, as it is part of their duty in public office,” appealed Sunday.