Ministry launches five-year strategic plan on nutrition

Fruits-CopyFederal Ministry of Health (FMoH) has launched a Five Year National Strategic Plan on nutrition, starting this year. Head of Nutrition, Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH), Dr. Chris Osa Isokpunwu, confirmed the launch, saying it aims to reduce malnutrition by 50 per cent come 2025.

Isokpunwu, in a telephone chat, explained that the plan also has a target to reduce stunted rate by per cent, wasting from its current 18 per cent to less than 10 per cent, and increase exclusive breastfeeding to 50 per cent from the existing rate of 17 per cent, all by 2019.

He further said that, when the rate of wasting, an index of malnutrition, is more than 10 per cent in any nation, “it is regarded as a nutritional emergency”, therefore, Nigeria, with a wasting rate of 18 per cent as per the 2013 Nigerian Demographic Health Survey is in a malnutrition state of emergency.

Isokpunwu pointed out that, though there is a direct correlation between poverty and malnutrition, other major determinants of it, includes nutritional status of the mother, ignorance and educational levels of mothers as well. He cited that 50 per cent of children born to illiterate mothers are stunted as compared to 13 per cent of children born to educated mothers.

With reference to the 2013 Nigerian Demographic Survey (DHS), the Isokpunwu, said that, “malnutrition is about 43 per cent in rural areas, as compared to 26 per cent in the urban areas, with the northern part of the country harboring the most malnutrition prevalence.

He explained that, though there have been increases in malnutrition prevalence in the north, as the number of internally displaced persons keeps increasing as a result of the insurgency, but “malnutrition rate in those areas were equally high, with reference to the DHS reports of 2008 and 2003, before the advent of insurgency”, he added. “The situation where you have one out of every five children being underweight and wasted is an emergency”, hence the need for mothers to harken to the four-star diet plan under the green ribbon campaign.

He also stressed on the need for lactating mothers to practice exclusive breastfeeding for six months since it’s a global index for measuring malnutrition, and subsequently feed their children with adequate complementary foods. Stating inadequate funds as a major challenge of the FMoH, Isokpunwu also mentioned lack of awareness as part of the ministry’s challenges of addressing malnutrition in the country.“There is not always enough funds because of dwindling available resources to deploy nutritional interventions out to the community level”, but the ministry notwithstanding has “many well known interventions”, such as the supplication of micro nutrients powder intervention which is being piloted in Adamawa and Kebbi state, and Community Management of Active Malnutrition (CEMAN), which also see to the management of severe malnutrition cases.

In his take home message, the FMoH nutrition head, cautioned against the culture of over-cooking of food among Nigerians, as it destroys many nutrients inherent in foods. He also advised the general public to eat right and feed the children right too, as well as exercise among adults. “You don not have to spend much to get good nutrition,” he added.

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