The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the increasing need for global attention to ‘Severe Acute Malnutrition’ (SAM). As the National Nutrition Champion and the founder of Aisha Buhari foundation, the First Lady, Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr. Mrs. Aisha Muhammadu Buhari acknowledges the need to add her voice to the ongoing advocacy for improving the Nutrition situation in the country in the face of COVID-19 pandemic. Her Foundation is a member of the Nigeria SAM consortium which targets advocacy for sustainable intervention towards the prevention and treatment of Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) in Nigeria.
Experts in the field have posited that proper nutrition strengthens the immune system to combat most illnesses including the novel corona virus; malnutrition on the other hand weakens the immune system thereby increasing susceptibility to diseases and eventual death and this puts the vulnerable children who are under 5 years of age (over 45% of them are already malnourished) in Nigeria at a higher risk.
Malnutrition is one of the major cause of mortality and underdevelopment among children under five in Nigeria before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the emergence of the pandemic and subsequent restriction of movement, the situation has worsened, resulting in the shortage of food supply. Consequently, this has led to a significant increase in the number of acutely malnourished children requiring urgent attention and collective action.
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Mrs. Buhari strongly believes that making provisions for this category of children is a step towards upholding their rights to good nutrition and their right to life.
She acknowledges the efforts of the Government through the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 in facilitating the supply of relief materials including food and cash to millions of vulnerable Nigerians across the country to help cushion the effect of COVID-19 pandemic.
Furthermore, she is aware that the Federal Ministry of Health in collaboration with Nutrition stakeholders have developed a COVID-19 Pandemic Health Sector Response Plan to ensure the integration of nutrition because of the central importance of good nutrition to the socio-economic development of the country.
Therefore, Mrs. Buhari call on all key stakeholders to do following:
1. Government stakeholders at federal and state levels; should commit funds to the prevention and treatment of all forms of malnutrition, ensuring that all policies and services required for treatment of malnutrition including the CMAM centres are supported to function optimally particular in this time.
2. Humanitarian support programmes; Private sector Interventions and donations by well-meaning Nigerians should focus on ensuring that food palliatives factor in the necessary dietary diversification by adding food commodities like millet, groundnut, beans, soya etc. for the prevention of malnutrition and that children currently suffering from any form Malnutrition are supplied with micronutrient powder, action meals and Ready to Use Therapeutic Food as treatment solutions.
3. Community stakeholders, families and caregivers should ensure that food items meant for malnourished children are actually given to the children who need them for their health and well-being.
Finally, the First Lady believes that in taking these actions, we as a county will be protecting children from the scourge of SAM and in the long term, taking steps towards attaining wholistic health of the Nigerian population and in line with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) to leave no one behind.