Nigeria’s vice-president, Professor Yemi Osinbajo has lauded the country’s government for demonstrating a strong political will to nutrition programmes and interventions through the National Council on Nutrition.
Speaking at the 17th ECOWAS Nutrition Forum, which focused on leveraging sustainable financing for multi-sectoral approaches to universal access to nutritious, safe, affordable and sustainable diets, Osinbajo stated that effective reduction of malnutrition in any country requires a strategic commitment to prioritising actions.
The ECOWAS Nutrition Forum is a regional platform that gathers key nutrition stakeholders to review policies, practices, and progress in the reduction of malnutrition and diet-related diseases in the sub-region. With over 250 nutrition experts from across the region participating in the meeting, the forum is an opportunity to examine innovative multi-sectoral collaboration practices that work best in terms of the synergy of action and sustainable financing of nutrition interventions.
West Africa, according to Osinbajo, is affected by multiple forms of malnutrition across various population groups and it is crucial to understand how these forms coexist, what drives them and how they can be addressed through multi-sectoral efforts.
The objective of the 17th ECOWAS Nutrition Forum, Osinbajo said, aligned with the West African Health Organisation (WAHO)’s nutrition agenda to strengthen multi-sectoral collaborations aimed at improving nutrition financing and Universal Health Coverage (UHC).
Several other experts, including the president of the ECOWAS Commission, Dr. Omar Alieu Touray and the chief programme officer at Helen Keller International, Dr Shawn Baker also spoke at the forum, highlighting the need for public financing to improve food security and the impact of rising food prices on malnutrition in the region.
Deputy representative of UNICEF Nigeria, Dr. Aboubacry Tall expressed the commitment of UNICEF and development partners to ensure that children’s nutritional rights and needs are met. Tall noted that the burden of child food poverty, nutrition insecurity and malnutrition in West Africa remained high, with Nigeria having the highest number of malnourished children in Africa and the region.
“As we are convening today, we acknowledge that Nigeria has the highest number of malnourished children in Africa and consequently in the region.
“Changes in the nutrition status of children in Nigeria means that we will change the narrative for the region and ultimately for the world. We know this can be done – exclusive breastfeeding rates have increased in Nigeria,” he said.
Despite the challenges, Osinbajo and other experts remain optimistic that the region has the technical means and political leadership to end malnutrition, and the forum provides a platform for stakeholders to share relevant knowledge on access to nutritious, safe, affordable and sustainable diets, including essential services in the Post COVID-19 era across the ECOWAS region.