BY PATIENCE IVIE IHEJIRIKA, Abuja
The World Food Day is marked on the 16th of October every year with the aim to promote world-wide awareness and action for those who suffer from hunger and the need to ensure food and nutrition security for all.
This year’s theme: “Grow, Nourish, Sustain, Together. Our Actions, Our Future.” further highlights the need for governments across the world including the Nigerian government, to act on commitment to the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2 – to achieve Zero Hunger by 2030.
Meanwhile, Nigeria still has the highest burden of stunting in Africa and second highest in the world next to India. The country’s current nationwide childhood under-nutrition indicator stands at 37 per cent stunting, 7 per cent wasting and 23 per cent underweight (NDHS, 2018).
Worse still, the COVID-19 pandemic has deepened the challenge of accessibility to safe and nutritious foods and saw malnutrition rates soaring in some states particularly among children.
However, the development and implementation of Nigeria’s COVID-19 recovery plans, provides an array of opportunity to adopt innovative solutions to build back better and improve food systems, making them more resilient to emergencies.
According to the Civil Society Scaling-Up Nutrition in Nigeria (CS-SUNN), this year’s World Food Day is calling for solidarity among all stakeholders in Nigeria; To Grow, Nourish, Sustain, Together, stating that this requires collaborative efforts to ensure food and nutrition security for all Nigerians.
The executive secretary, CS-SUNN, Beatrice Eluaka, said “Government at all levels, the farmer, the consumer, private organisations, civil society among others all have a role to play in helping all populations, especially the most vulnerable, recover from the crisis, and to make food and nutrition systems more resilient and robust so they can withstand increasing volatility and climate changes.”
She emphasised that exclusive breastfeeding particularly for infants in the first six months of life remains the best start that will provide infants with adequate nutrients and protect them against childhood killer diseases.
She stressed that food is the essence of life and preserving access to safe and nutritious food is, and will continue to be an essential part of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly for poor and vulnerable communities, who are hit hardest by the pandemic.
According to her, it is even more important than ever to recognise the need to support farmers and workers throughout the food system, who are making sure that food makes its way from farm to table even amid disruptions as unprecedented as the current COVID-19 crisis.
“We call for delivery of affordable and sustainable healthy diets for all, and decent livelihoods for food system workers,” she said.
The organisation therefore urged government 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.
It also called for the approval and implementation of 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.
CS-SUNN urged that nutrition should be prioritised 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.
It said, “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,”