By Luminous Jannamike, Abuja
The 11th Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II, (Emir Sanusi II) says the saddest day in his life since he ascended the throne in 2014 came when an infant child died in his palace because the parent could not afford drugs worth N3,000 for his treatment.
The traditional ruler spoke at the 49th Annual General Meeting and Scientific Conference of the Nutrition Society of Nigeria (NSN) in Abuja.
Emir Sanusi, who recounted the experience to highlight the poverty in the land, called for concerted efforts by stakeholders to address the problem child malnutrition in the country.
He said, “The saddest day in my life as an emir came less than a year from my ascending the throne.
“In Kano, from Monday to Thursday so long as the emir is in town, he holds court. Part of the processes in holding court is that people come with issues… Neighbours and wives who are victims of domestic violence, wives who feel they have been unfairly divorced, people who feel cheated by their village heads, people who are looking for certain rights and so on. Then, the people who come for assistance in settling medical bills, funding education etc.
“So we have a sequence: We deal with reports; then cases, and finally matters of assistance.
“On this particular day, as I was sitting on the throne, I heard a very loud scream from behind me, where the women stay. Everybody heard it. So. I sent someone to check what it was.
“When he came back, I was told that the loud scream was made by a woman who was waiting for her turn to ask the Emir for financial support to buy drugs for her infant child. However, while she was waiting for the child died in her arms. How much was she looking for? It was less than N3,000. This is the country we are living in.”
The Emir, who noted that child malnutrition was a not medical issue, stressed the need for the country to focus on lifting as many Nigerians as possible from poverty.
He said, “The elites live in ways that are disconnected from those of over 90 per cent of Nigerians. We don’t see people who don’t have drinking water. We don’t see people who are living below the subsistence level. We don’t see children suffering from kwashiorkor.”
The royal father stressed that nutrition is intricately linked to development and called for positive change at the federal and state levels of government.
What we’re doing to address malnutrition – Osinbajo
Also speaking at the conference, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo decried Nigeria’s poor nutrition indices but assured that the federal government is taking steps to address the situation.
The VP said, “About a third of our children under the age of five are still stunted due to malnutrition. This totally unacceptable.
“As a responsible government, we are taking deliberate and decisive measures to address this issue. We have revised the National Food and Nutrition policy. This was followed by the inauguration of the National Council on Nutrition.
“The national homegrown school feeding programme which has grown to provide the nutritional need of over 9.8 million pupils across 53,000 public primary schools in 32 states.
We are determined to reach at least 12 million pupils in all the 36 states and the FCT.
“Also, we are scaling up treatment of severe acute malnutrition through the procurement of Ready-to-Use-Foods therapeutic foods, which is a critical commodity for the effective treatment of the disease.”
On his part, NSN President, Dr Bartholomew Brai, wondered why the nutrition situation in Nigeria has not improved despite large resources deployed by the government and stakeholders to the scourge of malnutrition.