United nations children fund ( UNICEF) in partnership with the Bayelsa State Ministry of Health yesterday ended a two-day media programme tagged: ‘Dialogue on increased advocacy and reporting on nutritional response to child nutrition in emergencies- A PARSNIP Project.’
The programme according to the UN children fund was expected to take media stakeholders to an on-the-spot field assessment and reportage on child nutrition across flood impacted Local Government Areas of the state.
In his opening remarks, the state Commissioner for Health, Dr Pabara Newton Igwele, represented by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Dr(Mrs) Toyin Azebi applauded Unicef for the partnership.
The Commissioner pledged Government’s commitment in curbing issues associated with malnutrition, as well as continuing the drive in sensitizing women, especially mothers and adolescents on the importance of exclusive breastfeeding and adequate nutrition for children across the state.
On the day-one of the Programme, a nutrition specialist from the Unicef Port Harcourt field office, Mrs Ngozi Onuora who gave an overview of the 2021 MICS snapshot on child nutrition in the state noted that the global recommendation for exclusive breastfeeding for the year 2030 stood at 60%(percent), while Bayelsa’s current index was still as low as 6%(percent).
Mrs Onuora also added that introduction of newborn children to breastfeeding in the state stands at an average of 35%(percent), respectively, noting that exclusive breastfeeding and adequate nutrition was paramount in sustenance of child health.
She hinted that the growth and development of humans is dependent on the first 1000 days after birth, hence adequate nutrition was inevitable.
Unicef said: “The growth and development of humans depend on the first 1000 days after birth. If children are exclusively breastfed and adequate nutrition given, there won’t be malnourishment which leads to stunted growth of children.
“Malnourishment affects the brains, and therefore retards growth of children which would ultimately affect their performance in academics and other social aspects life, and could lead to poor economic input in terms of employment opportunities for these children when they reach a supposedly employable age.”
Also speaking on the theme: ‘ advocating and fostering resilience systems through preventive nutrition actions, and wasting reduction in emergencies’, a nutrition specialist from the Akure field office of Unicef, Mrs Ada Ezeogu said adequate and complimentary nutrition gives the immune system the resilience to fight diseases, as well as enables humans to sustain their lives in general.
She called on parents, the government and all well-meaning individuals to continue partnering Unicef on its sensitization drive on adequate nutrition and exclusive breastfeeding.
In same vein, while giving charge to participating media stakeholders at the programme, Unicef Communication Officer, Enugu field office, Dr(Mrs) Ijeoma Onuoha-Ogwe stated that media hands were expected to do child reportage in manners which should protect the rights of the children.
She applauded the media for its consistent partnership with Unicef,emphasizing that the role of the media in informing and educating as well as advocating for the rights of the child is inevitable.
“I commend the media for the partnership With Unicef over the years. As media stakeholders, we don’t need to stage manage our reportage on children, we need to protect their rights and continue to report the ills meted out to them in the society.
“The essence of engaging the media in Unicef’s quest to curb problem of malnutrition was because Unicef believes and knows that through the media, sensitization and advocacy would be fast tracked”, she said.
Highpoints of the day-one of the programme include goodwill messages from the state Ministries of Environment, Budget and Economic Planning, the World Health Organization (WHO), Rotary International, the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Bayelsa State Council, as well as the Centre for Clinical Care and Research in Nigeria (CCCRN).