In a groundbreaking display of unity and cooperation, the Athena Centre for Policy and Leadership, in conjunction with the Federal Ministry of Health, has brought renewed attention to the escalating crisis of malnutrition in Northern Nigeria.

During a policy dialogue hosted by the Athena Centre at the Transcorp Hilton Abuja on Thursday, June 27, 2024, governors from Katsina, Kebbi, Niger, and Zamfara states made a resolute commitment to join forces with the Federal Government and development partners in the battle against the rising scourge of malnutrition.

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In his opening address, Osita Chidoka, the visionary founder and Chancellor of the Athena Centre, called upon all stakeholders to unite in saving the lives of young Nigerians who are facing the dire consequences of acute malnutrition. He emphasized the pressing need for collaborative efforts to effectively address this urgent issue.

Highlighting the alarming prevalence of malnutrition in the region, Chief Chidoka underscored the necessity for immediate action.

He urged for a nationwide awakening to the malnutrition crisis and stressed the significance of synchronized efforts among federal and state governments, as well as international partners.

Expressing doubts about the effectiveness of previous warnings and measures, Chief Chidoka called for the implementation of both immediate and long-term strategies to ensure that no Nigerian goes to bed hungry.

“This event serves as a clarion call for national consciousness on this issue and the formulation of concrete solutions to alleviate the suffering of our people from acute hunger,” he declared.

Co-hosting the event, Prof Muhammad Ali Pate, the dedicated Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, announced a series of interventions by the Federal Government.

These interventions include establishing multiple treatment sites equipped with locally sourced, ready-to-use therapeutic foods for addressing acute malnutrition cases in the northeast.

Prof Pate highlighted the gaps in the northwest region and discussed plans to mobilize support to fill these gaps, including procuring millions of doses of micronutrient supplements for distribution across the states.

Revealing that the federal government has approved a substantial sum of $11 billion to be disbursed among the states of the federation, he emphasized the critical need to enhance primary healthcare systems nationwide to effectively combat malnutrition.

These funds will be utilized to improve infrastructure, equip healthcare centers, and provide necessary resources for the treatment and prevention of malnutrition.

“Our children are among the most precious assets that our country possesses,” he asserted, underlining the urgency of addressing the malnutrition crisis.

He added, “This multi-sectoral initiative brings together key ministries such as agriculture, health, and education to tackle the systemic issues contributing to malnutrition.

It is part of a comprehensive effort to ensure long-term food security and improve the overall health of Nigerians.”

A significant portion of the approved funds will be directed towards enhancing 1,200 primary healthcare centers nationwide. These centers will be equipped to provide essential services, including the treatment of acute malnutrition.

Additionally, the government has secured a $60 million commitment from UNICEF’s Children Nutrition Fund, which will be utilized to procure ready-to-use therapeutic foods and other essential supplies to combat malnutrition.