The Media Centre Against Child Malnutrition (MeCAM) held its maiden one-day Nutrition Symposium on Friday August 4, 2017, at the Welcome Hotel, International Airport Road, Lagos, with the theme ‘Malnutrition, Child Development and the Media’.
The event drew participants from the Academia, Media and the Civil Society especially those specifically working on nutrition. The most prominent of these CSOs are Scaling- Up Nutrition Business Network/Global Alliance on Improved Nutrition (GAIN) which was represented by Ms Ibiso Ivy King-Harry; Civil Society Scaling -Up Nutrition in Nigeria (CS-SUNN), represented by Mr. Sunday Okoronkwo; and Community Health and Research Initiative (CHRI) whose board chairman Dr Aminu Magashi Garba was in attendance. The event was chaired by Professor Babatunde Oguntona, Honorary Board of Trustee member of MeCAM and former president of the Nutrition Society of Nigeria.
WHEREAS the symposium looked at the issues surrounding malnutrition as well as various measures, past and present, being undertaken to defeat what stakeholders agreed is a silent killer of the Nigerian dream;
WHEREAS experts insisted that official figures of children ravaged by the killer disease may be grossly understated and that children not properly fed within the first two years of life may end up being stunted or wasted;
WHEREAS the symposium condemned the attitude of the Nigerian leaders to this crisis and observed that foreigner partners appear more devoted to resolving it;
WHEREAS stakeholders were united on the critical role of the media in focusing attention on the crisis;
WHEREAS the forum dissected a whole lot of fallacies and fads around nutrition and their impacts on the growth and development of the child;
The Nutrition Symposium resolved:
1. That Nigeria must invest in the nutrition of its people and make access to proper nutrition a fundamental right as a precondition for national growth and development, with India and Brazil cited as examples of developing nations that invested in the nutrition of their people and are now reaping the benefits in terms of huge socio-economic and technological advancement.
2. That conscious effort be made by all stakeholders, especially the media, to pull down all fads and fallacies around breastfeeding and nutrition, including but not limited to claims in some culture that giving newborn children the colostrum makes them susceptible to witchcraft.
3. That there is urgent need to declare an emergency to address the crisis of malnutrition, with the Nigerian government urged to rededicate itself to the implementation of all action plans on nutrition, such as the $912m required to fully implement the National Strategic Plan of Action for Nutrition (NSPAN 2014-2019).
4. That the media should avoid celebrating fraudulent individuals and their activities, but rather promote stories that bother on human interests such as the need for a reorientation and training of journalists on issues of malnutrition.
5. That there is need for the media to understand the topic of nutrition, and interrogate official data on it, with a view to give accurate information to the public in language understood by the vast majority of their audience.
6. That eliminating malnutrition is possible if all stakeholders do their bits and the national policies on nutrition are fully implemented.
7. That government should make access to gainful employment and adequate food a right for every citizen as these would go a long way to resolve the malnutrition crisis.
8. That government should not just commit funds to address malnutrition but to also take concrete steps to resolve the underlining cause of malnutrition in Nigeria.
9. That MeCAM and the media at large should raise the bar in reporting and creating awareness about malnutrition, sustain the discourse to boost advocacy efforts and champion serious commitment to nutrition in Nigeria so that history may say well of our role as media practitioners.
Rafiu Ajakaye Remmy Nweke
Chair, Rapporteur Faculty National Coordinator, MeCAM