IITA participates in 2019 National Micronutrient Conference
IITA participated in a two-day National Micronutrient Conference organized by the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) in Abuja. The conference took place on 1–2 August and aimed to create an interface and generate discussions among multiple stakeholders representing different sectors on leveraging strengths to scale up micronutrient interventions within the country and contribute to the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The theme of the conference was “Nourishing Nigeria: Micronutrient for Equitable and Sustainable Development”.
IITA was represented at the conference as one of the key development partners and sponsors of the event. Research Associate in the Nigeria Country Coordination Unit of the Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH) Research Program, Adekunle Yusuf, represented the Country Team Leader, Bussie Maziya-Dixon.
The program highlighted the worrisome malnutrition profile in Nigeria, which shows that over 13 million children are stunted, with more than 2.6 million severely malnourished. It also showcased the current strategies used to address micronutrient deficiency in the country to include supplementation, food fortification, and dietary diversification.
Several lessons were gathered from the event such as slow achievement of robust malnutrition goals in the country due to an implementation gap rather than a lack of policies. It was also noted that strong political will and commitment are required to deliver on the gains of micronutrient-focused programs.
Other key points included the need to evaluate various programs addressing micronutrient deficiency in the country to provide valuable insight on their progress and effectiveness as well as providing a roadmap on future priorities. Also emphasized was the need for better collaboration among academia, development partners, and other stakeholders in the nutrition sector so that relevant research outputs on malnutrition can provide a baseline with which to chart workable solutions to hidden hunger in Nigeria.
The importance of coordination among the organizations delivering micronutrient-entrenched interventions was reiterated. This would help prevent duplication and ensure increased coverage of the target population across the country. Also vigorously emphasized was the low or lack of awareness about fortified foods among nutritionally poor households, especially children and women of reproductive age in the rural areas.
The ongoing National Food Consumption and Micronutrient Survey (NFCMS) led by IITA was highlighted. The survey was lauded by participants as it helps unearth the state, extent, and nature of micronutrient deficiency across geopolitical zones of the country and indicates where the burden is highest.
The program also featured representatives from the office of the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Scaling-Up Nutrition Movement, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), the Federal Ministry of Budget and Planning, FMoH, and counterparts across Nigerian states. Other organizations include HarvestPlus, UNICEF, the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), Nutrition International, the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), UK Aid, and a host of other professionals from the academia, local NGOs, and private enterprises.
Invited enterprises at the conference were also given an opportunity to exhibit and market their micronutrient-driven products at an exhibition.