In the final of this three-part series, Arinze Chijioke, Elijah Akoji and Ekemini Simon look at how State and Federal government-prioritized spending on Child Nutrition can turn around the sad tales of child Malnutrition in Northern Nigeria and thus contribute to helping Nigeria achieve Sustainable Development Goal 3 of Good Health and Well-being.

The United Nations Children Emergency Fund, UNICEF dietary diversity project aimed at addressing infant malnutrition in select states in Northern Nigeria came to an end in 2021 even as the United Nations said that US$396 million is urgently needed to prevent a widespread hunger and malnutrition crisis and scale up humanitarian action in Yobe, Borno and Adamawa states.

Experts opine that if the prevalence of Malnourished Children must be addressed in Yobe and Kano States, the government must not allow it in the hands of international partners alone but must prioritise child nutrition funding.

“For Yobe State, the key reason for the prevalence of Malnourished Children is insurgency which results in the massive displacement of people and their source of livelihood,” said Edem Edem, the National Coordinator and Founder of Green Concern for Development (GREENCODE), a Non-Governmental Organisation that works on humanitarian responses, especially in Northern Nigeria. “Even in Kano State, the government must not allow issues of child nutrition in the hands of international partners alone. There is a need for prioritized funding,”.

Edem noted that most projects of international partners are time bound hence their effort to address the challenge of child malnutrition may be thwarted if the government fails to follow through with adequate funding.

“Analysis of budgets by these States and the Federal Government shows that impressive budgetary provisions are being made for Child Nutrition, however, there is no adequate release of funds needed to enhance the support international partners give which can turn around the prevalence of child malnutrition in Nigeria”.

Analysis of funding of child nutrition by the government of the two mentioned states and the federal government reveals effort yet gaps that must be improved upon.

Yobe State Zero Funding on Child Nutrition

Analysis of policy documents, budget and audited financial statements of Yobe State revealed that the State has only made little effort to address the nutritional concerns of children in the State.

The State currently does not have a policy on food and nutrition. Besides, its budgetary plans only end in the books. For instance, analysis of the approved budget for 2019 through 2023 reveals that it was only in 2020 that the State made budgetary provisions for Child Nutrition.

The government provided “Foodstuff/catering materials supplies for Nutrition for under 5 Children/ Lactating mothers at N55m. Yet, checks into the audited financial statements for the fiscal year revealed that the money was not released.

In subsequent years in 2022 and 2023, Yobe State’s budget that came close to the need was “Grants to Communities/ Vulnerable/Private – Support for Nutrition Activities. 2022 was N80m while N365.3m was appropriated in 2023. The financial statements for these fiscal years are yet to be published thus unknown whether funds were disbursed for the programme.

Analysis of State government spending to address the challenge of drought which could have checked the obstacle experienced by the UNICEF home-gardening project reveals where the government needs to improve.

Although the Yobe State Government budgeted N443.2m in 2021 and N540m in 2022 for a project tagged “Boreholes and other water facilities for irrigation activities (Climate Change) Lava Irrigation scheme”, checks to the financial statements of the State show that no amount was ever released. The state however spent N108.3m for other water projects in 2020. Other years from 2019 through 2022 had no releases.

Kano Impressive Plan but Zero Funding 

The government of Kano State over the years has made splendid plans to address the problem of child nutrition, but most of the government contribution is on paper.

First, in April 2016, the State government established the Kano State High-Level Committee on Food and Nutrition chaired by the Secretary to the State Government.

As a result of the UNICEF dietary diversity project, there was a buy-in by the State Government. This led to the development of the Kano State Multisectoral Strategic Plan of Action for Food and Nutrition (KN-MSPAN) 2019- 2023.

According to the immediate past Governor of Kano State, Dr Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, in his foreword of the Plan, the KN-MSPAN is designed to address the problem of malnutrition, which has been most devastating among young children, pregnant women and lactating mothers.

Beyond the policy, nutrition has been prioritized in the budget of Kano State between 2019 and 2022. However, only N64 million was appropriated specifically for child nutrition and this was in 2021 and 2022.

The few budgetary appropriations on child nutrition are; Active case findings of Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) and provision of treatment of which N2m each was budgeted for 2021 and 2022.

There was also the ” Provision and Distribution of Supplementary Food to Children with Moderate Acute Malnutrition (MAM). N20m was budgeted in 2021 and N40m in 2022.

Yet, checks into the audited financial statements of Kano State show that funds were not released for the projects.

FG spends 0.27 Percent of Budgeted Funds on Child Nutrition

The federal government in the last five years of 2019 through 2023 budgeted a total of N41.63bn for child nutrition through the Federal Ministry of Health and Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, checks into the Appropriation Acts of the years under review have revealed.

Data obtained from the Open Treasury Portal, a Federal Government portal that provides public access to collated data on government spending at the federal level and for Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) reveals that only one item received funding among the seven budgeted programmes.

The project, “Empowerment of Vulnerable Group (Youth and Women) in Selected Livestock Production Value Chain in Pastoralist Communities in the North-East, North-West North Central Zones livelihood improvement, Food Nutrition and Security” received N56.5m disbursement of funds for the project only in 2021 and 2022.

This project, supervised by the Nigerian Institute of Animal Science was reportedly executed by a General Merchant and Trading Company, Promex Multi-services Limited and

Besides the expenditure, although the federal government did not budget for Consultancy for Child Intensive Nutrition in 2022, the federal government through the National Social Investment Office made an 80% Payment of the Contract for the project to Splash Visions Limited in March 2022 at N57.08m.

The federal government spending on the two projects of Child nutrition amounts to N113.58m. This will imply that the federal government only released 0.27 per cent of the funds it budgeted for child nutrition within the period under review.

Experts’ View on UNICEF’s Nutritional Projects 

A lecturer in the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics at Imo State Polytechnic, Owerri, Patrick Ogbonna has recommended solutions to some of the challenges experienced by the dietary diversity project in Kano State and the home-gardening project in Yobe State.

Ogbonna who is also the Assistant National General Secretary of the Nutrition Society of Nigeria recommends that the use of modern technology in food preservation and processing of dietary food is the key to wriggling out of the challenge of accessibility to water or drought.

He said ” Since inaccessibility to water sources and sometimes drought has been the key challenge to the two projects, what is needed is that these communities need to have modern methods of food preservation using modern technology. Now, we have the solar system. They need food storage facilities powered by solar. So, during their bumper season, they collect the recommended food and preserve it.

“Another is processing the products to a form that can last longer than the usual supply.  Recently, we have micronutrient powder. They can be stored for a longer period than their natural fresh state.

“We can have what we call nutrients concentrate. These recommended foods can be processed and made concentrated and they now add them into the usual meal that the children consume.”

The Nutritionist who noted that it would be foolhardy to expect support from international partners to solve the menace of child nutrition called on the government to own initiatives geared at addressing child nutritional concerns and most importantly provide adequate funding against child malnutrition.

He said the government at all levels should provide credit facilities to the locals for the acquisition of some of the food processing machines which will help with preservation. Beyond that, he asked that the government in the area mostly affected provide solar storage facilities and also put mechanisms in place to ensure food that will address child nutritional concerns are prioritised.

What is more, Ogbonna stressed that the government must make a conscious effort to address the problem of insurgency in the Northern region of Nigeria noting that when people continue to be displaced, child malnutrition will continue to rise. He called on the government to improve its security on organisations that volunteer to help in the combat against child malnutrition.

This story was produced with the support of Nigeria Health Watch through the Solutions Journalism Network, a nonprofit organisation dedicated to rigorous and compelling reporting about responses to social problems.



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In the second of this three-part series, Arinze Chijioke, Elijah Akoji and Simon Ekemini look at how the home-gardening, driven by men is tackling malnutrition in Yobe State and the challenges of the project.

It is 10 am in Kalifadi, a community in Nguru Local Government Area (LGA) of Yobe State, Northeast Nigeria.  Usman Bello is attending to his vegetable farm where he planted his Spinach and Lettuce together with Harun, one of his sons behind their house.  While he weeds the farm, his son plugs some vegetables.

When he is not hanging out with friends, Bello is nurturing his backyard vegetable garden. He often carries his three children along and as they work, he tells them the importance of vegetables in maintaining good health.

Four years ago, in 2019, Bello lost one of his children to malnutrition- an imbalance in dietary intake-after he could not afford the money to provide an adequate diet.  At five months, his wife had already stopped feeding Yahaya with breast milk and resorted to grounded Wheat missed with water.

Usman bello in his Spinach farm

“Because we did not have the money to afford milk, meat, egg, fruits and vegetables, her body lacked enough energy, protein and nutrients, likewise my son, when he was six, “said Bello.

In 2017, the World Food Program (WFP) of the United Nations reported that Yobe in Nigeria’s northeast, had the highest number of malnutrition cases in Nigeria. Between 2017 and July 2021, at least 10,165 children died from Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) in the state.

This year, the United Nations said that US$396 million is urgently needed to prevent a widespread hunger and malnutrition crisis and scale up humanitarian action in Yobe, Borno and Adamawa states.  The UN estimates that 2 million children below five in these three states are likely to face wasting this year, the most immediate and life-threatening form of malnutrition.

Having a low income affects the production of milk and the act of breastfeeding which requires more energy from the body. If a mother eats little or less in a day, the quantity and quality of her milk are not affected.

That is the case for many women in Yobe State who often end breastfeeding even before the six months period recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) that all babies be exclusively breastfed after which they should start eating a diversity of solid foods.

Three years after his son’s death, Bello was trained in home-based farming and introduced to residents of Kalifadi and Bubari, two communities in Nguru LGA to help combat the issue of malnutrition and provide a health start-up for infants by the UNICEF.

They planted vegetable seedlings and also learned how to practice poultry to help improve the dietary intake of their children. Nutrient-rich vegetables are part of a variety of foods recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics to enable children to grow as they should. These vegetables were always lacking from the diets of Bello’s children.

Anike Alli-Hakeem, Communication Officer, UNICEF Nigeria said that home-based farming is intended to help prevent and reduce cases of malnutrition in the state and help households have access to a more diverse diet for their children and the mother.

Bello’s son working with his father in their home garden

For a mother to breastfeed exclusively, she needs all the support that she can get, “she said.  “Beyond home gardening, the men also help with other house chores so their wives can rest and eat well to be able to produce milk. They are referred to as breastfeeding males,”.

Bello said that taking part in backyard farming remains one of the best decisions he has ever taken and the best support he has ever got because it has helped improve the health of his family, especially, his children.

“They are stronger now because I ensure that most of our meals have vegetables, “he said. “My hens have reproduced and that means more eggs for our meals,”.  It has also been helpful to my wife who is currently breastfeeding our last child,”.

Apart from feeding his family, Bello also sells vegetables and eggs at the local market in his community and with what money he earns, he takes care of other needs in the family.

Children’s health improved

Like Bello, Idris Aliyu does home gardening in his Bubari community. Before he started, his two daughters Hajara and Faiza suffered malnutrition severely.

“At the primary healthcare centre in Bubari, doctors told me and my wife that we were badly feeding our children and that we needed to improve their diet, “he recalled.

Sadly, with no money to afford the appropriate diets, Aliyu kept feeding his children with corn and millet which were staple diets. He thought he was going to lose them.

With the introduction of the home-gardening practice, Aliyu regularly feeds his wife and children with vegetables and eggs from the hen he got, all of which used to be scarce commodities for his family.

Drought challenges project impact

Despite its success so far, both Bello and Aliyu say that drought- which occurs when there is a significant rainfall deficit that causes hydrological imbalances- remains a major challenge confronting the project in Yobe State which is characterized by a single long dry season followed by a shorter wet season.

Idris Aliyu in his Vegetable farm

Agricultural production in the state, like other states in the North, is mainly rain-fed and naturally prone to vagaries of rainfall variability. The State is located in the Sudano-Sahelian vegetation zone, which is characterized by a hot and dry climate for most of the year.

During years of abundant rainfall, households experience bumper livestock production. However, during the years with rainfall deficit, crops die.

“Our major problem is during the dry season, “Bello said. “The vegetables behind my house are green now but once the rain goes, they begin to die because we cannot access water and there is also the challenge of heat”.

This story was produced with the support of Nigeria Health Watch through the Solutions Journalism Network, a nonprofit organisation dedicated to rigorous and compelling reporting about responses to social problems.



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