Enugu Govt approves counterpart fund to enhance healthy nutrition, reduce stunted growth

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Enugu State Government has approved a counterpart fund for value-added foods to treat and check under-nutrition and stunted growth in all children in the state.

This was disclosed by Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, on Thursday, in a keynote address he delivered at the Opening of One-Day High Level Partnership and Coordination Meeting with Stakeholders and Policy Makers on Investment in Nutrition, held in Enugu.

Represented by the Deputy Governor, Mrs Cecilia Ezeilo, Ugwuanyi said that the growing level of stunt growth, which is getting to one to every five children, must be checked; and the government remained fully committed to doing that.

According to him, the state government will shore up the nutritional needs of children under five and this will further reduce infant mortality in the barest minimum in the state.
“Enugu State Government is deeply concerned to observe that stunting rate state shows a steady rise from 8% to 12% and has shown a significant increase in prevalence of 15%stunting, a measure of chronic malnutrition ,indicating that one out of every 5 children under five years in the state is stunted , while exclusive breastfeeding rate is only 19%.

“The state government is grateful to UNICEF, other international and local health partners as well as other stakeholders in ensuring that the state gets it right and rank among the states with the highest well-fed and well-nourished children in the country,” he said.

Governor Ugwuanyi added that “the value-added nutritious food is for children from zero to 59 months”,

He described the theme of the meeting , “Prioritising Investment in Maternal, Infant, Young Child and Adolescent Nutrition”as apt.

Speaking at the event, , Chief of Field Office UNICEF Enugu, Mrs Juliet Chiluwe, noted that UNICEF was committed to partnering with Enugu State, other relevant partners and stakeholders to achieve the agenda of well-fed and healthy children.

She said that the meeting offers an opportunity for awareness creation and high level advocacy on the importance of nutrition to the survival and general well-being of women and children as well as its impact on productivity, economic growth and national development.

“The event is very strategic as policy makers from the state and Local Government Areas, (L.G.As), relevant Federal stakeholders and the private sector are present to reinforce government support for the state to expand scope of the nutrition programme.

“This programme, which has been at the three pilot LGAs since 2019, roll out planned strategies and community innovations to tackle nutrition issues especially in the first 1000 days, with expectations of breaking the inter-generational cycle of under-nutrition within Enugu State.

“Available evidence shows that getting the right nutrients at the right time is critical.

“Enugu State has stunting (growth) rate of 15 per cent, approximately 147,816 children are shorter than expected height for their age, with associated poor cognitive functions,” she noted.

In a goodwill message, Director, Head Micronutrients Deficiency Control in Federal Ministry of Health, Chief John Uruakpa,
lauded Enugu State Government for creating a functional multi-sectoral stakeholders committee on food and nutrition.

Uruakpa noted that “countries are rated according to their ability to feed their citizens and ensure that they are healthy to enhance national optimal health and productivity”.

“The issue of tackling malnutrition, under-nutrition and stunt growth must be taken seriously.  

“We have Micro Nutrient Powder (MNP) for children already stunted to recover and Ready-made to Use Theraptic Food for supporting nutrition of children not to get under-nutrition.

“There is a need for the continual coordination of the stakeholders and we should take this advocacy and action to the rural communities and primary healthcare centres,” he said.

On his part, Enugu state’s Commissioner for Budget and Planning, Dr David Ugwunta, said that the high level meeting was to identify opportunities and challenges in tackling under-nutrition of children.

“From this meeting, we should come out with concrete and actionable plans and advocacy programmes that will be followed up and implemented to get positive desirable outcomes,” Ugwunta said.

Speaking, the Commissioner for Health, Prof. Ikechukwu Obi, noted that proper nutritional balance diet for all residents especially for children was an integral part of optimal health and it re-emphasis the quality of life.

He noted that it was necessary to give the residents basic health and welfare for them to carry out their basic activities in life.

Chairman of Traditional Rulers Council of Enugu State, HRH, Igwe Lawrenec Agubuzu,
encouraged the government and her ministries to support needed investment to aid low income families, schools and communities to optimalise good feeding.

“With the current collaborative efforts of all, I sincerely believe that we can get it right and ensure the right cognitive and physical development of our children,” Agubuzu said.

The meeting was also attended by representatives of the Ministry of Education; Ministry of Information; Enugu State Primary Health Care Development Agency; Enugu State Agency for Universal Health Coverage and civil society organizations among others.

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