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Sierra Leone News: Parliamentarians commit to children’s nutrition

Lack of progress in reducing malnutrition, particular stunting, has raised serious concerns amongst health advocates. The 2017 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) rated the Sierra Leone’s status at 26.4% as against the goal of less than 20%. Focus 1,000’s involvement in the countries maternal and child health issues played a big part in the motivation to join the Scaling Up Nutrition Movement (SUN) to organise an advocacy meeting with Members of Parliament (MPs) on the theme ‘Parliamentarians as Champions for Children- Strengthening Food & Nutrition Security in Sierra Leone’. On Tuesday 30 October, MPs made commitment to five key objectives to be implemented by the Parliamentary Network which will be taken back to their respective political parties and constituencies and they will draw on the support of their partners to strengthen and improve the lives of the people of Sierra Leone. The five key issues are legislation and policy, advocate for budget allocation and expenditure, oversight, representation and awareness-raising, coordination and cooperation. The event provided an opportunity for speakers to explain on how nutrition legislation, policies and budget advocacy helped advancing nutrition in diverse national contexts and foster sharing and learning amongst MPs, and to encourage leadership and call for commitments of Parliamentarians to leverage the momentum behind the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition 2016-2025 and achieving SDG2. Hon. Daniel B. Koroma moderated the interactive discussion highlighting the role Parliamentarians can play in advancing good nutrition at country level. Best practice was discussed regarding labelling and inappropriate marketing of unhealthy foods to children, legislation on breastmilk substitutes and the right to food in the constitution. Speaking on the importance of the theme, Mohamed Bailor Jalloh, Chief Executive Officer of Focus 1,000 said they are willing to provide the relevant information to the MPs to increase their advocacy for children and other vulnerable groups. “We want you to be fully equipped to deal with the issue of strengthening food and nutrition security in Sierra Leone as that can contribute to enhancing the status of children and women which ultimately will contribute to reducing the high maternal and child mortality” he hoped. Jalloh cautioned that if that is not addressed the issue of malnutrition we will not be able to reduce the impact of high maternal and child mortality in the country. The MICS data which they have disaggregated by district will help the Parliamentarians in their engagement with their constituents. Irish Ambassador Catherine Campbell urged the Parliamentarians to ensure that budget allocations are nutrition sensitive and that financial commitments made to reduce malnutrition translate into disbursement. “You have significant powers to progress reforms when they reach Parliamentary approval stage. So we welcome the production of a new National Development Plan which recognises the challenge of nutrition” said Ambassador Campbell. Reading the statement of the Minister of Agriculture, Mohamed Ajuba Sheriff, SUN Focal person at the Ministry, said that they are committed to transforming agriculture and scaling up nutrition through food based approach by intensifying production and diversification of crops and livestock. “Efforts are underway to integrate food and nutrition security in the Right to Food in the Constitution, which is supported by the Pan-African Parliament” he said. Nyabenyi Tito Tipo from FAO, speaking on behalf of the UN Chair, said that it is important that the country have a clear approach and 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. “The support and commitment you will make at this meeting marks the road to zero hunger, the end of all forms of malnutrition, and new sustainable beginning of Sierra Leone’s development” she said. Hon Catherine Zainab Tarawally representing Constituency 037 in Makeni called on the organisers to submit a draft Bill that will not only talk about food but backed with commitments especially from HRMO that deals with women who breastfeed. She said that there is always this myth that only children in rural areas are anaemic but sometimes educated women also causes anaemia in children because they do not have enough care and time for their babies to be breastfed. “The maternity leave period is very small, but with six months that will be enough, when the baby needs the mother she is at work, so we want a Bill that is reflective of what currently obtains and with a woman and child focus and we will treat it sensitively” she promised. The issue of family planning, according to Hon. Isaac Tarawallie of Constituency 118 in the Western Urban cannot be left out, as it plays a pivotal role regarding food and nutrition as some women do not know how to control spacing of their children. “Our role is for us to disseminate to our constituents and we are ready to do it, so I urge Focus 1000 to include family planning in this process as it is important for lactating mothers, if she lacks that information it will derail the entire process” he said.

ZJ30/10/18

By Zainab Iyamide Joaque

Wednesday October 31, 2018.

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