October 31, 2018
By Jariatu S. Bangura
Members of Parliament have been urged to enact a ‘Code of Breast Milk Substitute’ policy in order to discourage the huge importation of baby food into the country.
Speaking in an advocacy meeting with parliamentarians as champions for Children Strengthening Food and Nutrition Security in Sierra Leone, Mohamed Bailor Jalloh of Focus 1000 opined that if food and nutrition security for children could be achieved where people champion that cause.
Jalloh said that the objectives of the meeting was to provide lawmakers with the required knowledge on strengthening food and nutrition security, adding that the rate of child mortality in the country should be addressed with immediate effect.
He stated that MPs should be able to work on policies that enhance the status of children, women and food security, citing the Code on Breastmilk Substitute.
The children’s advocate further urged enhanced collaboration among ministries, departments and agencies in order to address children and women’s issues.
Speaking on behalf of United Nations family, Country Representative for the Food and Agriculture Organisation, Nyabeyi Tito Tipo said the right to food was a fundamental human right as good nutrition is essential to human, economic growth and development of Sierra Leone.
“Food security and good nutrition contribute to poverty reduction, improve human capital and can contribute up to 2-11 percent increase in gross domestic product (GDP) and can have a significant impact on the social and economic progress of the country. How will this be achieved? With adequate food and good growth during the first 1,000 days of a child’s life, a child’s brain will develop optimally. When a child attends school, he or she will learn better, score well and complete his/her education. Good nutrition is prerequisite to achieving good education,” she said.
Ms. Tipo averred that a well-nourished child could grow up to be a well-educated, healthy adult, get better job with better income and earn up to 30% more income than their poorly-nourished co-workers.
“A well-nourished adult is 33% more likely to escape poverty,” she maintained.
The UN diplomat stated that food and nutrition sector in Sierra Leone requires political will, commitment and investment to pave the road to sustainable development that ends the intergenerational cycle of poverty, ill health and malnutrition.
“It is important that the country have a clear approach, a common plan and strategy as well as enabling policies and legislations to ensure adequate food and good nutrition of its citizens especially the most vulnerable groups,” she said.
She noted that the support and commitment lawmakers would mark the road to zero hunger, an end to all forms of malnutrition and new sustainable beginning of the country’s development.
Also, Deputy Chief Agriculture Officer Sorie Mohamed Kamara said the Ministry of Agriculture, in collaboration with partners, has been very active in promoting interventions that contribute to better nutrition over the past years.
Kamara said reduction in childhood malnutrition poses a huge challenge, but that all of Sierra Leone’s development plans would be impacted by the fundamental human development issues of economic, investment, education, health and human capital.
He said the country’s nutrition rates were of concern as 30% stunting and 50% food insecurity contribute to the highest maternal and child mortality rates in the country.
“A key factor in the fight against malnutrition is that it needs engagement across a range of sectors and MDAs. That is why your coordination and advocacy is so very important to making progress and the work on legislation that you can do. As parliamentarians, you must ensure that budget allocations are nutrition sensitive and that financial commitments made to reduce malnutrition translate into disbursements,” he said.
Earlier, Hon. Daniel B. Koroma, who chaired the event, said food and security cannot be limited to enough food without nutrition, hence Members of Parliament must pay accurate attention to importers as the latter has a role to play.
Hon. Koroma said there should be a timeframe for a policy on the ‘Code on Breast Milk Substitute’ to be taken to the Legislative Committee and then the whole House for discussion, adding that it should be done within the shortest possible time.
Meanwhile, a declaration was read by Hon. Katharine Zainab Tarawally on behalf of her colleagues, stating their commitment to a legislation and policy on nutrition as a key component of the country’s socio-economic development, while pledging to take necessary actions to make nutrition a core agenda in the country’s development plan and political platforms.
The declaration noted that MPs have agreed that budget allocation was crucial to the enforcement and implementation of policies and programmes aimed at improving food security and nutrition.
It further noted that it was essential to ensuring that key ministries responsible for the delivery of nutrition programmes are allocated their fair and proportionate share of the budget.
On the issue of representation and awareness raising, the MPs pledged to be champions for food and nutrition in their respective constituencies and influence all government and community leaders to take action in addressing food insecurity and malnutrition.
Hon. Tarawally stated that it was essential to use their powers as lawmakers to scrutinise and oversee programmes on food and nutrition in order to hold government to account for the enforcement of nutrition sensitive and nutrition specific laws and policies.
“The Parliamentary Network will strengthen inter-ministerial mechanisms responsible for national food security and nutrition strategies, policies and programmes. These will be coordinated at a high level of government, consolidated in national law, involving representatives from ministries or national agencies from all areas related to food and security nutrition,” she said.