Enugu Lawmaker assures support for CS-SUNN ‘s campaign on healthy nutrition

Member representing Enugu East 1 Constituency ( Urban) in the Enugu state House of Assembly  and House Committee chairman on Civil Service and Labour matters, Hon. Osita Hyginus Okoh, has assured support for the advocacy on healthy nutrition of children, including mothers , being carried out by an advocacy group, Civil Society Scaling Up Nutrition in Nigeria (CS-SUNN) in Enugu state.

He gave the assurance on Thursday, during the group’s  advocacy visit to him in his office in Enugu.

Hon. Okoh  lauded CS-SUNN for it’s efforts in building a healthy society. He observed that some women do not breastfeed their babies after giving birth, saying that such attitude will lead to malnutrition and stunted growth.

The Lawmaker who said he will give  CS-SUNN all the necessary support  it needs from the House of Assembly, encouraged the group to attract programs that will improve the nutrition of the people of the state, disclosing that the Government doesn’t like loosing any foreign grant that will enhance development in the state.

On the advocacy for Six -months paid maternity leave for nursing mothers, Hon. Okoh said the existing three months maternity leave for nursing mothers was backed by the law and advocacy for a Six months paid maternity leave will also be backed by the law, if it should come to the House of Assembly, it will be opened for a public hearing. He however added that if it’s something that will be done at the Civil Service level, he will also support the group.

Pix- Hon. Osita Okoh

Earlier , the Enugu state Coordinator of 

the Civil Society Scaling Up Nutrition in Nigeria (CS-SUNN) , Finian Ali, informed the Lawmaker that CS-SUNN is an alliance of Non- Governmental, non-profit organizations with a shared vision to transform Nigeria into a country where every citizen is food and nutrition secured. 

“This vision is achieved by raising awareness about the importance of investing in nutrition and by holding the government accountable for their roles and commitments.”, he said.

Ali added that they engage government and mobilize non state actors to advocate for relevant policies, funding and program implementation, evidence generation and capacity building of local communities to scale-up nutrition. 

Pix- Finian Ali, Enugu state Coordinator, CS-SUNN

“As part of commitment to achieve adequate nutrition CS-SUNN with support from UNICEF is implementing the Increased Investment in Nutrition to Scale up Quality Nutrition Services Project”, he said.

The state coordinator observed that malnutrition and nutrition related diseases have remained a public health concern and a key development challenge in Nigeria with mothers, infants and children most affected.

Pix- Group picture of CS-SUNN and media Associates, with Hon. Okoh (m)

According to him, “malnutrition is a formidable cause of death, with stunting, in particular, linked to adverse outcomes such as poor brain and cognitive development, a loss of 2-3 years of schooling,  poor school performance and diminished productivity in adulthood.”

Giving the statistics, Ali said ,”in Enugu state, NDHS 2018 reveals that 14.8% of children under-five are stunted, 6.1% are underweight, and 2.5% are wasted. This statistics translates to over 159.000 stunted children and over 24,000 wasted children in Enugu state.

He noted that early Initiation to breastfeeding within the first 1 hour of birth is at a very low 11.3% and exclusive breastfeeding is at 36.6%, meaning  that only about 36 out of 100 women in Enugu state exclusively breastfeed their children, while the remaining 64% are not able to breastfeed their babies exclusively for various reasons, including the burden and responsibilities of work, during this period.

He said the visit was to advocate for Hon. Oko’s Legislative support as the Enugu State House of Assembly Committee Chairman on Civil Service and Labour matters, for the approval of the extension of paid maternity leave from the current four months to six months in Enugu State.

Ali said the approval of six months maternity protection will help to promote exclusive breastfeeding, and ensure that mothers give their babies the quality breast milk nutrition that they deserve during the period.

“It will help to stabilize the emotional and mental health of nursing mother and ensure they are able to breastfeed their babies exclusively.

“This will translate to improved cognitive and overall wellbeing of the child, and will invariably impact positively, state and national development, including reducing the huge cost of treatment of malnutrition in the state,” he said.

The State Coordinator intimated the Lawmaker that the CS-SUNN has conducted strategic advocacies to critical stakeholders necessary for influencing and approving the 6 months maternity protection in Enugu state

“On the 22nd December, 2023, we met with the state Head of Service on this request. On the 16th January, 2024, we met with the Civil Service Rules Review Committee.  On the 22 January, 2024, we met with the Permanent Secretary, ministry of budget and planning to include the 6-months maternity leave request in the ministry’s response letter to the head of Service’s memo on the review of civil service rules

“Nutrition is essential to children’s growth and development, and the first 1000days of a child’s life (the period from conception to age 2) is critically important for optimal physical, mental and cognitive growth, health and development. We are therefore counting on your support to facilitate the legislative oversight that will drive the approval of 6-months maternity leave in the state”, Ali said.

Author- Maureen Ikpeama

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