Why nutrition should be human capital issue – UNICEF

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THE United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has called on policy makers in Nigeria to see nutrition as a human capital development .

Mrs Chinwe Ezeife, the Nutrition Specialist at the Kaduna Field Office of the UNICEF, made the call on Thursday in Ilorin while speaking with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) after a field visit to some health facilities in the city.

The officers of the Kaduna Field Office led by its Chief, Dr Zakari Adam, were in Ilorin for the 2019 End of Year Review and Planning Meeting for 2020 with the Kwara government and other stakeholders.

According to Ezeife, policy makers must know that nutrition is not just a health intervention of well importance but a human capital development issue that requires head-on attention.

The nutrition specialist stated that her agency was ready to partner with Kwara in 2020 to do the evidence based continuous advocacy in the area of nutrition.

“This is important because most importantly, we still want the executive and the state assembly to get familiar and have their knowledge improved on the benefits of nutrition not just as a health intervention of well importance, but as a human capital development issue.

“When we talk about human capital development issue, the brain and all educational performance, school performance, retention and all that work on it.

“In fact, this is in line with the SDGs of which nutrition is very important,” she said.

Ezeife added that the international  agency would also support the state in the implementation of the multi-sectoral food and nutrition policy it had helped to develop.

According to her, the field office will also dwell on the nitty gritty of infant and young child feeding practices which included exclusive breastfeeding, early initiation of breastfeeding within one hour of delivery and adequate introduction of complementary foods from six months while continuing breastfeeding till 24 months and beyond.

“We are going to concentrate on infant and young child feeding practices because it is a preventive measure approach.

“If we get our primary health care givers, the mothers, to understand and implement it, we will reduce significantly the number of children that are being malnourished in the state.

“The UNICEF will also continue to supply Vitamin A capsules to be used as supplementation during the Maternal, New Born and Child Health (MNBCH) week as well as routine immunisation.

The UNICEF health officer, however, applauded the state for instituting integrated health care services in the state.

Ezeife, who led her team to the maternal wing of the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital (UITH), Tanke Primary Health Centre and the Paediatric Unit of the Civil Service Clinic, said that the state was proactive in ensuring Vitamin A supplement was routinised in the state beyond the MNBCH week.

“Another unique thing we found out in the field is that they conduct outreach services every Thursday.

” Obviously depending on the health facilities, but the one visited confirmed that they carried out outreach services on Thursday and obviously in an integrated primary health care services manner meaning that in their outreach teams, they have all the services.

” These are starting from immunisation, Vitamin A supplementation and the use of the opportunity to deliver ante-natal care services.

“What they are doing really is to reach the underserved, who are in the hard-to-reach areas, whom if we do not innovatively programme for, may not come to the health facilities themselves.

“So in a nutshell, I want to say Kwara has proactively engaged in a way we are pushing in this country for us to strengthen the health system.

“My biggest joy is that they are integrating nutrition services as part of their routine.

“Let me also say that in our field visit to the maternity wing of the UITH, we also found out that Wednesday and Friday in a week are also dedicated for food demonstration services.

” This is giving the practical skills to pregnant women on how to prepare complementary foods, which they have to introduce to children of six months and above.

“They also use the opportunity to do nutrition counseling package where they prepare mothers for exclusive breastfeeding of their children and also do a lot of counselling on maternal nutrition toward building their skills and enhancing their capabilities for optimal infants and young child feeding practices,” she said.

She, however, urged the state to provide logistic support to the health workers in form of vehicle or transport allowance, saying they would have been more intense in their outreach if adequately supported.

NAN

– Dec. 12, 2019 @ 17:59 GMT |

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