By Philip Yatai
Kaduna, Oct. 3, 2020 Journalists reporting developments in the nutrition sector in Kaduna State, say poor budgetary allocation is threatening the survival of 18,355 Severe Acute Malnourished (SAM) children in the state.
Mr Joshua James, Executive Director, Open Kaduna Radio, expressed the concern on behalf of the journalists during a virtual 2021 Draft Budget Townhall Meeting on Saturday, with the theme, “Budget of Recovery”.
James explained that the N188 million allocated for nutrition interventions in the 2021 draft budget was grossly inadequate to save the estimated 18,355 who could die of SAM.
He said that the National Demographic Health Survey, 2018 shows that 1.1 per cent, representing 18,355 children, out of the estimated 1.8 million children under five years in the state were suffering from SAM.
James noted that it requires N24,000 to treat a severe acutely malnourished child, using the Ready to Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF), amounting to N440.5 million for the 18,355 affected children.
He, however, pointed out that the allocated N188 million translates to N10,242, per child, stressing that about 50 per cent of the children could die if the budgetary allocation was not reviewed upward.
He added that the allocated amount also means that the state government would only spend N104 on every under-five child, which population was estimated at 1.8 million in the state.
“Our concern as media is that nutrition is a key and crucial component of human capital development, which gives children under-five years a good start for a healthy and uninterrupted growth and development.
“But beside the N188 million allocated under Kaduna State Emergency Nutrition Action Plan, there was no specific budget line for procurement of RUTF needed to treat SAM children in the 2021 draft budget.
“We are, therefore, appealing to the state government to review the nutrition budget upward to not only treat malnourished children, but also implement preventive interventions,” James said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that nutrition partners in the state been advocating for creation of nutrition budget lines in relevant ministries, departments and agencies with little success.
The partners include UNICEF, Save the Children International, Civil Society Scaling Up Nutrition in Nigeria and Alive and Thrive (Fhi 360), among others.
On education, James pointed out that a total of N51 billion was required for infrastructural development in the state’s Education Sector Implementation Plan (ESIP), 2021.
He, however, said that only N38 billion was allocated for capital projects in the education sector for 2021, leaving a funding gap of N13 billion.
“This is critical because, according to the ESIP, 75 per cent of primary schools in the state do not have furniture and the government planned to reduce the gap by 70 per cent in 2021.
“The ESIP also shows that 71 per cent of schools in the state do not have water and sanitation facilities which the government planned to reduce by 60 per cent in 2021.
“Also, no amount was budgeted for Monitoring and Evaluation of infrastructural development in the ministry of education except for the N10.2 million allocated for the State Universal Basic Education Board.
“It is, therefore, expedient for the government to find ways to bridge the funding gap in the education sector,” he said.
On nutrition, the Commissioner of Health, Dr Amina Baloni, said that there was annual counterpart funding of N50 million for the World Bank-supported Accelerating Nutrition Result in Nigeria programme.
“There is also funds for RUTF, but in addition to these, the budget for nutrition is equally streamlined in the Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn Child Health and Nutrition.
“We equally have operational funding from the Basic Health Care Provision Funds.
“Also, don’t forget that nutrition funds are not only in the ministry of health but also in the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency (RUWASSA) among others,” she said.
Also responding, Dr Shehu Makarfi, Commissioner for Education, explained that the provision of water and sanitation facilities was the mandate of RUWASSA.
Makarfi added that N4.8 billion was provided for water and sanitation interventions in the 2021 budget, but didn’t say how much of it was for schools.
On monitoring, the commissioner said that the ministry of education monitors its projects along with other agencies, adding that every project that has a consultant has a component of monitoring built in the project cost.