Senate said Monday it would appropriate N95 billion in 2017 nutrition funding for some 1.9 million children aged under five suffering from malnutrition.
It is the biggest appropriation promised for nutrition so far, after it appropriated a paltry N2.4 million in budget for federal health ministry in 2016, which wasn’t released.
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Senator Olanrewaju Tejuoso admitted malnutrition budget in 2016 “wasn’t properly budgeted.”
“Only N2.4 million in FMOH budget, less than some states budgeted,” told a press briefing before the senate committee started a policy dialogue on nutrition in Abuja.
“If we are going to take care of children confirmed for malnutrition, we need to make sure they are budgeted for.”
Senator Matthew Urhoghide, vice chairman of Senate health committee and also on the appropriations committee, defended his committee’s passing just over N2m for nutrition.
He said the amount was “proposed by the ministry, and that was what was passed.”
Speaking about its current calculation of N95b for nutrition in 2017 budget, he said, “We are saying this is what must go to the budget office before it comes to us.”
He said it wanted the health ministry to budget that amount of funding for nutrition before submitting its budget to avoid any alternation to the budding raising concern about “budget padding.”
Out of an estimated 2.5 million children considered wasted – too thin for their age — and in need of malnutrition treatment, the expected funding can only provide for 1.9 million at an estimated N50,000 child.
The United Nations Children’s Fund has pledged to fund treatment for an extra 600,000 children to be treated for severe acute malnutrition. Another 11m children are considered stunted, or too short for their age.
“The actual footprint of the burden of malnutrition is far greater than what you see in terms of [severe acute malnutrition],” said Shawn Baker, director of nutrition and global development at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
“What’s terribly encouraging is there’s a recognition that nutrition has not been under-prioritised.”
Working with Borno state, UNICEF expanded treatment to reach 15,000 children, up from 6,000 between June and September, said Arjan de Wagt, UNICEF nutrition chief.
“What’s stopping us from scaling up?” said de Wagt. “When the resources are there, it is very easy to scale up to a million children. That’s not rocket science.”