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Governors’ wives seek establishment of nutrition departments nationwide

by James Davies

The Nigeria Governors’ Wives Forum has pledged to change the narrative by working towards ensuring the prompt release of nutrition budgets in the 36 States of the Federation.

The Chairperson of the forum, Mrs. Maryam Tambuwal, gave the pledge at a one-day National Conference on ‘Women in Power’ held in Abuja.

Tambuwal also pledged the forum’s commitment towards the establishment of nutrition departments in states, ministries, departments and agencies.

The NGWF also promised to champion the practice of exclusive breastfeeding and the adoption of six months paid maternity leave for working mothers, as well as empower more women and girls by providing them access to continuous education, inclusion in decision-making, and economic opportunities.

Tambuwal who emphasized the importance of exclusive breastfeeding and why every child should have access to good nutrition, especially within the first 1000 days, noted that the Forum was paying attention to women in rural areas to ensure their children have access to good nutrition at the early phase of their lives.

“We are calling for accountability in terms of funds allocated for nutrition. We will ensure that there is proper disbursement of funds meant for nutrition at the state level.

“As governor’s wives, we are role models and would ensure that children have access to good nutrition”, she said.

Tambuwal further called for collaboration and partnerships among relevant ministries and agencies to ensure good nutrition at state levels.

She charged mothers to ensure that their children have access to good nutrition, especially in the early phase of their lives.

“We need to ensure that every child has access to good nutrition, especially within the first 1000 days. We are paying attention to women in the rural areas.

Also speaking, the Minister of Women Affairs, Pauline Tallen, also called for an extension of paid maternity leave of up to six months for both private and public sector employees.

Tallen said promoting exclusive breastfeeding in the first 1000 days, from pregnancy to two years of age was critical to enable all children to live healthily.

“Breastmilk contributes to child brain development, increased intelligence, and lifelong productivity. The benefit of breastfeeding to both mother, the child and society is quite enormous.

” It is essential to provide breastfeeding rooms, on-site creches, and flexible work options to ensure baby-friendly workplaces. Empowering women and girls with education and resources to enable them to access optimal nutrition for themselves and their families”, she said.

The minister revealed that the federal government is engaging in different initiatives to improve the nutrition indices in the country.

“The ministry is among the five critical sectors identified to implement the Accelerating Nutrition Results in Nigeria (ANRIN) project.

“It is an initiative by the Government of Nigeria with support from World Bank to increase the utilization of quality, cost-effective, and high-impact nutrition services for pregnant, lactating women, adolescent girls and children under five years”, she said.

A Senior Lecturer at the Department of Internal Medicine, Faculty of Clinical Sciences, University of Calabar, Dr. Mbang Kooffreh-Ada, said that women and girls traditionally eat last and have lower-quality food, often leading to poor nutritional intake.

“Undernutrition in adolescent girls aged 15–19 years in Nigeria has been variously reported to range between 23 per cent and 58 per cent,” she added.

Kooffreh-Ada noted that socio-economic and dietary factors were the underlying determinants of undernutrition in rural adolescents.

She said, “In some rural communities, negative social and cultural norms deny women and girls their right to good nutrition.

“Women make up nearly half of the Nigerian population but remain underrepresented in policymaking, including on issues related to their health and wellbeing.

“Stunting is 37 per cent, wasting, 7.7 per cent and underweight, 19.3 per cent in children under five. Among women of reproductive ages, 38 per cent of women over 18 years are overweight, 16 per cent are obese, 55 per cent anaemic, and 25 per cent of women over 18 are diabetic.”

She said that malnutrition is a leading cause of death in children under five years old in the country

“According to the Global Nutrition Report 2022 Nigeria Country Profile, only 56% of women aged 15-49 have minimally adequate dietary diversity (DHS 2018)

“According to the 2018 Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS), the prevalence of anaemia among women aged 15-49 years in Nigeria is 29 per cent.

“The same NDHS report reveals that 7 per cent of women aged 15-49 years are underweight, and 11 per cent are overweight or obese,” she said.

According to her, Girls are more likely to be malnourished than boys in Nigeria, with the prevalence of stunting and wasting being 38% and 7.7%, respectively, compared to boys’ 36.5% and 6.9%.

She said that these statistics highlight the urgent need to address the nutrition situation in the country, with a particular focus on women’s and girls’ nutrition.

Kooffreh-Ada said that improving their nutrition status can have significant positive impacts on their health, education, and economic outcomes, which, in turn, can contribute to national development.



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