Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on Wednesday said the federal government is now implementing its school feeding programme in 19 states in Nigeria.
The scheme provides a meal a day for pupils in public primary schools.
Mr. Osinbajo, in his speech at the launch of the 2017 global nutrition report held at the State House, Abuja, said the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, more than any before it, had demonstrated its seriousness about catering to the needs of the most vulnerable of the population.
“That policy, if fully implemented, will ensure significant improvements in several specific national indices, including the reduction of stunting in under-5 children, reduction of wasting in children, reduction of anaemia in pregnant women, reduction in adult obesity rates, and an increase in the rates of exclusive breastfeeding,” the Vice President said.
“One of the primary manifestations of this commitment to the vulnerable is our Social Investment Programme, comprising a School Feeding Programme for public primary schools, a Micro-credit scheme for small business people, a Conditional Cash Transfer scheme, and a Jobs programme for unemployed graduates.
“The School Feeding Programme, which directly seeks to improve the nutrition of primary school children, is now active in 19 States of the country, providing one meal a day to 5 million. Our target is 5.5 million children before the end of the year.”
He said from December, the federal government intends to carry out a mass de-worming exercise on the back of the School Feeding Programme.
“Our Agriculture reform agenda is focusing on achieving self-sufficiency within the shortest possible time,” he said.
“In the North-east, where Boko Haram’s violence disrupted the farming cycle for years, we are now seeing a remarkable improvement in security, allowing the people to return to their farms, and grow their food. In our healthcare agenda, we are revitalizing our primary health care system, with nutrition at the very heart of it, and promoting optimum breastfeeding and quality of complementary foods.
“We are also collaborating with the private sector to ensure Nigerians have year round access to adequately fortified and nutritious foods, and working with both national and International partners to raise awareness and deepen understanding on this issue.”
Mr. Osinbajo said there is a strong connection between nutrition and economic growth, adding that if the nutrition of the people was improved, it would reduce to cost of healthcare besides the emotional and psychological satisfaction.
While stressing the need to mobilise the needed resources to continue to execute the programme, he said the government cannot fund the programme alone, and called on the private sector, civil societies and the international community to play key roles in helping to mobilise the financial and logistical resources, as well as help ensure transparency and accountability in the deployment of these resources.
“Indeed, every resource must be made to count towards the attainment of our goals and ambitions. There is no room for waste,” said the vice president.
“The National Council on Nutrition has its work cut out, in implementation, collaboration, and communication.
“We bear the burden of very high expectations – Nigeria must make speedy and visible progress in its fight against hunger, malnutrition and other nutritional challenges.
“As part of this we must ensure that the new National Food and Nutrition Policy is quickly domesticated at State level in every State of the Federation and the FCT.”
He however pointed out that the success or failure of the programme would make a huge difference in how quickly Nigeria could achieve its various developmental goals.
“I would also like to express our gratitude to all our partners and stakeholders, local and international, who have demonstrated again and again that they are fully with us on this journey,” he said.