The Rivers State
Government in conjunction with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), recently organised a two-day Zonal Nutrition Summit for South South States of Rivers, Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom and Delta, with the theme, “Leveraging In-Country Resources for Better Nutrition Outcomes-Key to Sustainable Development”.
This is even as the wife of Rivers State Governor, Justice (Mrs.) Eberechi Suzzette Nyesom Wike has commended UNICEF for its collaborative efforts in tackling malnutrition and other nutrition related diseases in the South South.
Speaking as Special Guest of Honour at the summit in a keynote address in Port Harcourt, Mrs Wike lauded UNICEF for establishing a head office in the South-South and for playing a leading role in championship the cause of addressing the issue of malnutrition and providing the platform for concerted collaborations with stakeholders in the zone.
“I appreciate all the efforts of our development partners especially UNICEF who work over-time to ensure that Rivers women and children thrive and develop to their full potentials”, she said.
She said the Nutrition Summit was aimed at raising the awareness of critical stakeholders on the need to prioritise nutrition and appreciate care for women and children in the four South-South States, adding that the summit is timely, given that malnutrition and related diseases continue to be problems of great public health importance in Nigeria and globally, with escalating records of stunted growth in children especially and micronutrient deficiencies in women.
Mrs. Wike regretted that Nigeria has the highest number of stunted children under the age of 5 years in Sub-Saharan Africa and the second highest in the world with 37% of Nigerian children classified as stunted and 18% wasted.
She expressed delight that the Rivers State Government has in the past one year successfully controlled Lassa Fever and Cholera outbreaks and continues to prioritise public health issues in the state, emphasising that the ongoing construction of four zonal hospitals in Bori, Degema, Ahoada and Etche towns and the development of the framework for the Universal Health Insurance Scheme will grant more Rivers people and residents access to quality healthcare services and protect lives especially at the rural areas.
She promised to include the issue of malnutrition and other related issues as topical points on “RivETHNICS on Radio”, a public education and character building radio programme initiated by her office, which is aired on five radio stations every Saturday in the state.
In his remarks, the UNICEF Chief of Rivers Field Office, Mr. Wilbroad Ngambi thanked the Rivers State Government for working with UNICEF to organise the summit, a gesture which he said reflects the government’s commitment to ensuring that the nutrition of Nigerian children is improved upon.
He said the theme of the summit is timely, as it is in line with the global development agenda, the Sustainable Development Goals, which clearly stated that “by 2030, end of all forms of malnutrition, including achieving by 2025, the internationally agreed targets on stunting and wasting in children under 5 years of age, and address the nutritional needs of adolescent girls, pregnant and lactating women and older persons”.
Ngambi said UNICEF is committed to working and supporting the State in the South South and indeed the whole of Nigeria to achieve this agenda, and hinted that 11 million children representing almost 37% of Nigerian children are ravaged by malnutrition and other nutrition-related ailments.
The UNICEF Chief, therefore, threw this poser, among others for the participants to ponder on: “can there be any greater inequality than children deprived of the rights to live and learn fully, so that they may reach their full potential?”
On her part, the Rivers State Commissioner for Agriculture, Mrs. Onimim Jack said the Ministry of Agriculture is giving priority attention to ensuring food security in the State and promoting good nutrition among Rivers people and residents.
She said instead of concentrating on producing particular food crops, “we ensure that farmers produce a little of everything and to make sure we have our own”. Mrs. Onimim disclosed that the state is prepared to mark the World Food Day and the World Food Day Fair slated for 24th October, 2016 and 27th October, 2016 respectively.