The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) says it has earmarked 9.5 million dollars to tackle malnutrition in Bauchi, Kebbi and Sokoto states for two years.
This was disclosed by the Director, Health Population and Nutrition Office, USAID-Nigeria, Mr. Paul McDermott at the USAID Advancing Nutrition Project Launch in Abuja.
McDermott said the challenge of malnutrition in Nigeria was evident, and that a multi-sectoral approach was needed to change the situation, especially in children, adolescents and women.
“So what we basically worked on, in addition to coming up with this great new project that we are here to launch, is all part of a larger puzzle.
“We specifically tried to limit it to the states that are already working with our integrated health programme.
“We also have some significant investments, I think in education and WASH, and of course, in agriculture in these same states that will be synergistic.
“The activity will provide technical support, share information and knowledge, conduct research, to improve nutritional outcomes in Bauchi, Kebbi and Sokoto, as well as at the national level.
“We are looking at over the past 60 years that USAID programmes have saved lives and improved health outcomes across the globe.”
McDermott said that addressing the multifaceted challenges of malnutrition remained one of the agency’s greatest areas of focus and that it would continue to collaborate with the government of Nigeria.
He said the agency would continue to provide support for women, children and adolescents at risk of malnutrition.
McDermott added that USAID had a multi-sectoral institution nutrition strategy for 2020 to 2025, which aligned with its broader USAID strategy across all the development sectors it was working.
He added, “It covers almost everything that we have been talking about today; access to food, service delivery capacity, community leadership, the role of women’s health, water, and sanitation.’’
McDermott said that USAID was also looking at the 1000 day window between the start of a woman’s pregnancy and the child’s second birthday.
The project, he said, had an overall approach and established priorities for investments in policies and programmes to reduce the many burdens of malnutrition.
He added that it would seek to improve coordination, both at the federal and sub-national levels and increase collaboration.
He said, “So we are very pleased to unveil this strategy today, we are already doing some of this work in integrating the nutrition that is happening across the 33 states.”
Minister of State for Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mr. Clement Agba, on his part, said that the negative consequences of malnutrition on public health expenditure and economic productivity required a multiple-pronged approach by all stakeholders to address it.
Represented by Dr. Sanjo Faniran, director, Social Development, Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, the minister commended USAID for its effort in tackling malnutrition, adding that the government was committed to addressing the incidence of malnutrition by implementing strategies.
Agba said the ministry coordinated the development of the National Multi-Sectoral Plan for Food and Nutrition, 2021 – 2025, which was approved by the Federal Executive Council in September, 2021.
He said the plan would be implemented by the federal, states and local governments, Organised Private Sector, development partners and donors, including USAID and allied partners.
He noted that the ministry coordinated an exploratory dialogue that covered the entire country in 2020-2021.
The minister added that about 40 dialogues were held, which produced a ‘Transformation Pathway for Food Systems’ in Nigeria.
Agba said the consolidated report was synthesised into short, medium and long-term plans that stated the priorities of Nigeria on food systems transformation.
“It is from these priorities that three programmes were selected as priority programmes to run from January to December, 2022.
“One, the federal government through the Nigeria Metrological Agency and Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, regularly collect and disseminate (through Radio and other platforms) weather patterns and soil properties,
“Two, there have been the establishment of Farm Settlements/Estates made up of groups of small producers, including women and youths, to increase input supply, machinery hiring, extension and other services, and market access.
“Three, the federal government through the local government areas is promoting ‘Operation Feed Yourself’ by helping households to access information and inputs that will encourage them to produce food around their houses to feed their families,” he said
Agba explained that the ministry also took steps to develop an implementation plan for the three priority programme for 2022 with all relevant stakeholders, including development partners.
Ms Tina Lloren, director of Country Initiatives, USAID Advancing Nutrition, said that the launch of the project implementation was aimed at improving nutrition for a healthy, productive and resilient population.
Lloren commended other stakeholders that provided invaluable input to the development of the project, adding that their effort helped to ensure that the work aligned with the government’s priorities in obtaining optimal nutrition for all citizens.
She said that USAID envisioned a world where countries communities and families would be well nourished, resilient, and be able to thrive.
Malnutrition, she stressed, was an underlying cause of nearly half of the deaths in young children around the world.
“We are very proud of the contributions we have made toward strengthening policies and programmes to improve nutrition globally.
“We are very excited to embark on this challenge in support of the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“I am happy to share that we already have a web page dedicated to Nigeria, to highlight the learning from our programming here.
“We look forward to populating that web page with the learning from the project in a bid to strengthen efforts in multi-sectoral coordination around the world. USAID was led by a consortium, the JSI Research and Training Institute and its partner organisations, including Helen Keller International, which remained the lead implementing partner for operations in Nigeria.
The Bauchi, Kebbi and Sokoto governments thanked USAID for the project and committed to supporting it in order to tackle malnutrition in their states.