BY PATIENCE IVIE IHEJIRIKA, Abuja
As Nigeria joined the global community to mark this year’s World Food Day, the Civil Society Scaling-Up Nutrition in Nigeria (CS-SUNN) has urged government at all levels to prioritise the food and nutrition needs of the poorest and most vulnerable households in the country by expanding and improving emergency food assistance and social protection programmes.
The World Food Day is marked on October 16 every year by over 150 countries including Nigeria. This commemoration promotes world-wide awareness and action for those who suffer from hunger and the need to ensure food and nutrition security for all.
Executive secretary of CS-SUNN, Beatrice Eluaka, in a statement, called on government to approve and implement the National Multisectoral Plan of Action for Nutrition to guarantee optimal nutritional status for Nigerians through accelerating the scaling up of priority high impact nutrition specific and nutrition sensitive interventions with focus on the most vulnerable, especially women, children and internally displaced persons.
She stressed the need to prioritise nutrition in the country by improving budgetary allocations, releasing and cash backing those allocations while ensuring transparency and accountability in use of funds directed at addressing malnutrition.
Eluaka also advocated for Extention of the current four months maternity leave for nursing mothers to six months to enable them exclusively to breastfeed their babies.
“Prioritise Nigeria’s Food fortification agenda and ensure an Improved integration of fortification regulatory monitoring into overall food inspection system. This will go a long way in tackling the challenge of “hidden hunger” and micronutrient deficiencies in Nigeria.
“Promote climate-smart and environmentally friendly agricultural practices to preserve the Earth’s natural resources, health, and the climate while also slowing the habitat destruction that contributes to disease outbreaks,” she said.
Eluaka also called on the private sector to respect national food safety regulations and measures to protect food and reinforce good hygienic and food safety practices along the food chains, especially in rural areas.
“We call on them to support and promote small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs) to stay in business. Private sector should continue to invest in sustainable resilient food systems and ensure favourable working conditions that will promote the practice of exclusive breastfeeding- establishment of creches in work places and the adoption of 6 months maternity leave to enable nursing mothers breastfeed their infants exclusively.
“We encourage Nigerians to increase their overall demand for nutritious food by choosing healthy, and not allowing sustainable habits fall by the wayside. Nigerians should choose to eat diverse and healthy diets as this will promote their health and wellbeing. They should join CS-SUNN as advocates by sharing knowledge about eating nutritious foods with family and friends, growing food at home, and raising awareness in their communities,” she added.