The Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Civil Society Scaling-Up Nutrition in Nigeria CS-SUNN and Nutrition Consultant at Unicef, Dr. Omotola Davies; and the Programme Director at International Institute of Media in Public Health, Solomon Dogo have identified the spate of insecurity in Nigeria as worsening the malnutrition crisis in Nigeria.
Activities of bandits, kidnappers, and terrorists have continued to keep indigent Nigerians from farming which serves as their primary source of livelihood.
Speaking further, Dr. Omotola Davies also said the absence of an improved food system guide is impacting on the quality of food in Nigeria, as he expressed optimism that ideas submitted at the just concluded Food System Summit will yield a standard guide for the country.
“Incidentally we have just concluded the Food System Summit where we harvested contributions from almost 5000 different groups to buttress the fact that we actually need to do something about the issue of our diet, the issue of nutrition and how they affect, including the issue of environment.
“The Food Systems we used to operate that time and now is very fragmental and are still not very improved, it is too poor and people just eat what is available. And so, we have just reviewed the food system in Nigeria and Nigeria has come up with some framework that will transform the food system to be able to respond to the nutritional needs of Nigerians, all Nigerians irrespective of their gender, social standing etc.”
On his part, Solomon Dogo stressed the need to expedite local production of Ready-To-Use-Therapeutic-Foods, RUTF, which will enhance treatment of under-five children suffering from Severe Acute Malnutrition.
Dogo also lamented the attitude of Nigerians towards RUTFs, pointing out that Nigerians especially in the north are converting RUTFs for sundry unwholesome uses.
“Again one of the experiences we had is that in some of the states you find packets of RUTF that is supposed to be kept at the Primary Health Care facilities for treatment of children with Severe Acute Malnutrition, you find them being sold on the streets.
“For example in Kano, you find out that the Maishayis use it because they feel it is a nutritional supplement. If you want the tea that will make you fat, they will put RUTF because they believe it will solve that problem.
“In fact, the major investigations were done by the media that we supported for investigative reporting across five northern states and at the Federal. So there were a lot of stories, you know from some of the northern states where RUTFs are being sold on the streets, some even use it for their rams to fatten the rams. So it’s so bad and we as Nigerians, we need to wake up.”
Government was advised to commit more funds and ensure that the funds are timely released and utilized to tackle malnutrition in the country.
Meanwhile, some Nigerians we interviewed, corroborated the position of Omotola and Davies adding that food price control, tackling insecurity and robust private sector engagement as vital steps required to eliminate the challenge of malnutrition in Nigeria.
Oga Gabriel lamented that the rising insecurity has resulted in food scarcity, while the scarcity of food has made prices to go up, but worse of all is the fact that government has no effective price control mechanism to make food affordable.
“You cannot feed your children because you cannot go to the farm even if you are a farmer, you cannot attend to your farm because of insecurity and if you are a worker, the money is not sufficient and prices of food are skyrocketing. And so you cannot even afford enough food for your family.
“In those days they said you should eat three square meals but today you cannot do two square meals because there is no money, there is no food, our farmers cannot produce enough food for the country, and the government is not helping matters in the sense that no price control in the market.”
Also speaking, Bala Muhammed, expressed displeasure with the poor monitoring of food donations to indigent Nigerians often resulting in the diversion of food products by those in charge.
“The government cannot do it alone. we are having billionaires in Nigeria, what are they doing to check the issue of malnutrition especially in the North that is ravaged by insurgency and banditry?”
“Like somebody, you know I wouldn’t mention his name, he gave trailers of sugar, Indomie, you call them, but what happened, those people responsible with taking care of those items were the same people that diverted those stuffs given to them to distribute to the children and the food stuffs were found in the market being sold out. We have to learn to be our brothers’ keepers by ourselves.”
ISMPH however, emphasised commitment to work with the media through its ISMP-EU-ACT-SAM Project to draw attention to the problem of SAM.