By Omon-Julius Onabu
Asaba — The adolescent nutrition programme, an initiative of the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) to tackle challenges emanating from early childhood malnutrition in Nigeria, was Thursday commenced in Asaba, the Delta State capital, with a unanimous call for greater attention to adolescents.
Wife of the Delta State Governor, Edith Okowa, performed the flag-off of the programme during a ceremony organised by the Delta State Ministry of Health and the Delta State Primary Healthcare Development Agency in collaboration with the state ministry of Economic Planning and UNICEF in Nigeria.
Delta and Katsina State have been chosen by UNICEF for the pilot scheme of the adolescent nutrition programme, which is expected to last five years.
Speaking, Okowa noted that the launch of the adolescent nutrition programme in the state was a clarion call to all stakeholders to support the scaling up of nutrition in the state.
She particularly challenged parents to take more interest in not only their children’s feeding quality and habits but also in all other issues concerning their growth and development especially as adolescents.
The UNICEF Chief of Field Office (Port-Harcourt), Mr. Wilboard Nganbi, noted that the introduction of the adolescent nutrition programme was not as important as the implementation, saying all hands must be on deck to ensure its resounding success of scaling up nutrition programme especially for early childhood and adolescent age brackets.
Nganbi disclosed that UNICEF would soon launch a special media campaign as well as collaborate with the Delta State Government through the ministry of economic planning towards the promotion of the objectives of the nutrition programme in the state.
He said the choice of Delta State was not accidental as the Okowa administration has shown serious commitment through its policies a porgrames which have given commendable attention to issues affecting children and youths as well as maternal health and specific nutrition schemes.
The state commissioner for Economic Planning, Kingsley Emu, noted that the state government fully recognised the importance of proper nutrition to social and economic well-being of the people, saying this has been captured adequately in budgetary allocation to the sector under the Okowa government.
He assured that the government would continue to partner UNICEF towards the attainment of highest possible levels of nutrition especially among children and adolescents in the state.
In his presentation, Head of Nutrition, Federal Ministry of Health, Dr. Chris Osa Isokpunwu, noted that adolescents are of critical importance in nutrition matters since the adult life of every man or woman was largely shaped by whatever happens to him or her at the adolescent stage in life.
The Chairman, Delta State Primary Healthcare Development Agency, Dr. Mrs. Isioma Okobah, commended the commitment of Okowa to the welfare and healthy development of children and women, noting that the wife of the governor recently concluded a special free medical outreach to all but one 25 local government areas of the state through her pet project, the 05 Initiative.
Goodwill messages were received from several personalities including the Asagba of Asaba, Prof Chike Edozien, who was represented by the Omu Ahaba, Obi Ada Biose, Obi Martha Dunkwu, the Omu of Okpanam Kingdom, and Hon. Angela Nwaka of the State House of Assembly.
The event, which took place at the Unity Hall, Government House Asaba, was attended by representatives of the Federal Ministry of Health, state nutrition officers and Nutrition Focal Persons from the 25 local government areas of the state, youth groups, parents as well as students and teachers drawn from various schools across the state.
Highpoints of the event included a drama presentation on the issue of malnutrition among adolescents by the Bold Steppers drama and singing group in Asaba and the presentation of iron boosting tablets and books to participating students.