By Ndidi Chukwu
The National Strategic Plan of Action on Nutrition, approved by the National Council on Health since last year that could see local governments spend as little as N109.9 million every year until 2018 to cut malnutrition among children aged under five in Nigeria has being stalled since 2014. The NSPAN is estimated to cost N425.6 billion until 2018 on interventions that will drastically reduce stunting by 20%, reduce low birth weight among newborns by 15% and increase exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months of infant life by 50%.
But NSPAN, developed by the federal health ministry and agreed by state governments and other stakeholders, is yet to be adopted and made operational, advocates said at a press briefing on Tuesday in Abuja.
The Partnership for Advocacy in Child and Family Health (PACFaH), a coalition of some seven civil society groups working on nutrition and child health, raised concern about the poor nutrition status of Nigerian children despite recent progress in local food production.
Nearly 4 in 10 Nigerian children aged under five are stunted–the second highest stunting rate in the world and the highest in Africa, recent data indicate, which form the bases for the N425.6bn NSPAN.
“It is a lot of money but can Nigeria continue to produce the most stunted children in Africa?” said Dr Philippa Momah, director of PACFaH’s nutrition arm. “We can’t continue with this stigma.”
The partnership says exclusive breastfeeding to help children start out healthy early in life is still low, practice’s among only 17% of women in Nigeria, compared with 70% in Ghana, which NSPAN hopes could triple by 2018.
“Nigeria has a lot of wonderful plans, but we are not going to allow this plan to be on somebody’s table,” said Momah.
PACFaH called for state and local governments to adopt and implement everything mapped out in NSPAN.