WELCOME ADDRESS BY HON. DCN. CHIKE JOHN OKAFOR (The Chairman, House Committee on Healthcare Services)
I want to start by expressing my uttermost delight to be your host and to welcome you to this all important national conference on promoting maternal and child nutrition in Nigeria. I must commend UNICEF Nigeria and the rest of our reputable partners for their concerted efforts towards the promotion of robust health and wellbeing programmes that will deliver quality health to all.
We are gathered here today because nutrition is a very powerful driver for every nation’s socio-economic development. Hence, the eradication and control of malnutrition are beyond the capacity of any entity as malnutrition is one of the major but also most neglected public health and development issues around the globe. Malnutrition is a part of an intergenerational cycle of poverty, poor growth and unrealized potential. Globally, about one in four children under five years old are stunted and poor nutrition in the first 1,000 days of children’s lives (that is to say: covering from their foetal development to the first two years of their lives) can have irreversible consequences. For these children, this means they are stunted forever. Let us also not forget that about 50% of Nigerian children die annually from ailments induced by malnutrition. Similarly many women of reproductive age group in Nigeria have poor nutritional status and suffer micronutrient deficiency especially iron deficiency anemia. Micronutrient deficiency is also high among women, especially during pregnancy. This unfortunate situation is harmful to the health of both mother and child if such women become pregnant.
Concretely, to fight nutrition crisis and to advance nutrition goals in Nigeria, it is important to galvanise different sectors, partners, national and sub-national stakeholders into taking action on nutrition issues with a view to eradicate and control malnutrition for the sustainable social and economic development of Nigeria.
In view of the above, the Nigerian delegates, under my able leadership, made a commitment at the Inter-regional parliamentary seminar on promoting maternal and child nutrition in West Africa in July, 2017 to:
1. Undertake adequate advocacy to achieve the National Strategic Plan of Action for Nutrition by increasing exclusive breastfeeding in first 6 months to at least 50% by 2017
2. Promote and strengthen nutrition coordination and collaboration across the 36 States including the Federal Capital territory Abuja; and
3. To enhance capacity to deliver effective and appropriate nutrition interventions
As a follow up to the commitments and to deepen the implementation of the resolutions made at the seminar, the House Committee on Healthcare Services partnered with UNICEF Nigeria and other development partners with the aim to enhance the understanding of parliamentarians on issues related to malnutrition, stunting, and the deleterious effects they have on their states and the nation. More importantly, it is expected that by the end of the 2 day conference, parliamentarians will select actions they will take forward with partners to advance the nutrition security agenda in their respective states and the federal level in order to help reduce malnutrition rates in Nigeria.
This conference could not have come at a better time, given the recent drive by the House of Representatives to support the vision of the Federal Government in repositioning the Healthcare Services in Nigeria through the formation of the Primary Health care Revitalization Support Group and the recent launch of the Legislative Network on Universal Health Coverage by the Senate. The concepts of primary health care and universal health coverage are all about Health System Strengthening at all levels of the government which also requires nutrition to be addressed as a priority. Hence, expanding the scope of nutrition promotion in the state level through the objectives of this conference is an important stepping stone to achieving the vision of a revitalised PHC system and ultimately the attainment of UHC in Nigeria.
Therefore, I am glad this conference is happening at this time when malnutrition cases have been on critical level especially in the North-East and North-West part of Nigeria. We have the moral obligation to spring up to action in order to match up to other countries such as Ethiopia, Haiti and Rwanda who are leading the way in scaling up nutrition movements even though these countries have less resources than Nigeria. Like no other conditions, malnutrition tests our ability to put ourselves in someone else's shoes - to identify with the plight of our fellow men and to relate to humanity. I wish to reiterate that everyone, especially we the parliamentarians, must work together to give the most disadvantaged mothers and children dependable and quality nutrition. We definitely owe that to every Nigerian child and every Nigerian mother.
On behalf of the House Committee on Healthcare Services, I welcome you all once again and I wish you a successful deliberation.
Thank you and God bless.