JICA supports Nigeria, other nations to improve nutrition status of citizens
The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) says it is supporting 10 countries, including Nigeria, to execute programmes that will involve multi-sectoral synergies to improve the nutrition status of their citizens.
Mr Tanaka Osamu, JICA’s Senior Deputy Director, Rural Development Department, said this at the stakeholders’ workshop on Initiative for Food and Nutrition Security in Africa (IFNA) in Abuja on Thursday.
He said that the workshop would establish a framework for collaboration with African countries in efforts to prevent malnutrition and enhance the resilience of the people through short or long-term interventions.
He said that maternal under-nutrition was very high in the region due to inadequate diet during pregnancy, leading to premature delivery, low birth weight and birth defects of newborns.
According to him, child stunting in the country is caused by under-nutrition in women and inadequate complementary feeding for children.
Osamu said that recent research had shown that “maternal under-nutrition is very high, while under-nutrition is rampant among adolescent girls with deficiency in Vitamin A, iron and zinc.
“Inadequate diet during pregnancy increases the risk of poor maternal outcomes, as recent research has shown that it causes child stunting.
“With inadequate complementary feeding, only 18 per cent of children with ages between 6 and23 months receive minimum acceptable diet.
“And the prevalence of stunting increases during the 6 to 24-month window when breast milk is no longer sufficient for the needed nutrients.”
Osamu said that feeding the children with a variety of foods would help to ensure that their nutrient needs were met.
He said that the common cereal-based infant weaning foods and pap giving to children as complementary feeding contained insufficient protein, fats and micro nutrients.
He, therefore, said that the initiative would support sustainable systems for nutritional improvement and prevent malnutrition through short and long-term interventions.
In his speech, Roselyn Gabriel, Head, Food and Nutrient Unit, Ministry of Budget and National Planning, said that the ministry had the mandate to coordinate nutritional programmes in the country.
Gabriel, who was represented by Mr Tope Omotola, said that Nigeria was having the challenge of malnutrition and cases of stunted children.
“As you all know, part of the mandate of the Ministry of Budget and National Planning is to coordinate all national programmes and policies in the country, including nutrition.
“It is no longer news that Nigeria has a large population of under-five stunted children.
“We are aware of the different efforts we are making as individuals and organisations to address the problem of malnutrition in the country.
“We are collaborating with JICA on nutrition activities and the Japan Government has funded a team of consultants to gather information on the subject and look for critical gaps where they can come in,” she said.
She said that the purpose of the workshop was to jointly identify the strategic direction in efforts to improve nutrition with a particular focus on how to address child stunting.