The Government and Nigerian media partner towards better Nutrition Advocacy

Thursday 26 November 2015

By James Bigila, Media Coordinator

The Working to Improve Nutrition In Northern Nigeria (WINNN) programme organized a capacity building workshop cum field visit for News Producers and Editors from the 7th – 9th September 2015 in Zamfara State and 10th – 11th September, 2015 in Katsina State. Zamfara and Katsina states are two of the five states being supported by WINNN.

The workshop was a follow-up to a Nutrition Media roundtable held in February 2015 with Media Executives in attendance, and was aimed at strengthening the capacity of News Producers and Editors on reporting nutrition related issues as well as ensure the accuracy and relevance of the information provided to the public.  The field visits on the other hand was aimed at equipping the journalists with evidence from the states that will support their efforts at holding Government accountable on commitments made to improve Maternal and Child Nutrition.  

 PROCEEDINGS: ZAMFARA STATE

The Permanent Secretary, Zamfara state Ministry of Health, Dr. Lawal Umar gave the opening remarks. In the remarks, he welcomed and conveyed the appreciation of the Zamfara state Government to all participants for attending the workshop. He further intimated the participants on the need for the media to actively participate in reporting nutrition issues adequately to create awareness and reduce cases of Malnutrition in Nigeria.

Mr. Samaila Bakwai, State Nutrition officer, Zamfara State identified some causes of under Nutrition, as well as consequences of Malnutrition. He Said: "Malnutrition causes poor brain development among children and also stunting. This affects the perfomance of children and the learning processes in school".

The workshop’s focus was to build the capacity of Producers and Editors on accurate and effective strategies in reporting nutrition related issues as well as ensure the accuracy and relevance of the information provided to the public.

The first day of the workshop was attended by 12 participants; editors and newsproducers drawn from the print and broadcast media from Abuja, and the states of Katsina, Zamfara, Kebbi, Yobe, and Jigawa States, as well as the officials of Health Ministries in the states. The United Nations Children Education fund, The ACF with the support of Save the Children Nigeria, facilitated the workshop.

The workshop was also held to empower producers and editors with required skills to turn out information that will make the Government accountable to their commitments to improve Maternal and Child Nutrition.

The workshop was structured into presentations and group work sessions for participants as they discussed, and pitched case studies on Malnutrition as various causes of Malnutrtion were identified, Immediate causes, Underlying causes and basic causes.

A site visit was done on the third and fourth day of the workshop to OTP sites with the officials of the Health Ministries of Zamfara and Kastsina state government leading the delegation of journalists from the media in Nigeria.

PROCEEDINGS: KATSINA STATE (ACTIONS/NEXT STEPS)

On the fifth day of the workshop, recommendations were presented to the State government on findings at the field visits in both Zamfara and Katsina States and action points/next steps were presented towards better nutrition advocacy at the local government and state levels.

Recommendations were further organised into advocacy areas, government partnerships to create more awareness for most rural dwellers towards improving nutrition and skill empowerment programs for mothers. Among the action points presented on the final day of the workshop are that the government and the Media are to:

•         Involve primary school teachers in Nutrition programs to improve the nutrition for school kids in both western and Islamic schools.

•         Call in programs on radio or TV with Nutrition Ambassadors to address issues on nutrition

•         Engage husbands or fathers on dangers of Malnutrition

•         Sensitisation on school feeding programs and the need for it to be nutrition oriented.

•         Educate the masses on the advantages of proper Nutrition

•         Local media to create more awareness on Nutrition

•         Need for proper Nutrition legislation at state houses of Assembly

•         Importance on the use of RUTF to avoid abuse by mothers

•         Need for women empowerment programmes to boost source of income for mothers

The Permanent secretary Katsina State Ministry of Health, Mr Muhammad Ahmad Qabasiyu, represented by the director for Public Health in Katsina State Ministry of health in his closing remarks appreciated the WINNN project and Save the Children International, Nigeria country office for putting in place measures and interventions to reduce mortality rate among malnourished children in the state.

Following further extensive deliberations on the issues raised and the proceedings of the workshop in general, participants forwarded some actions points and next steps to be taken by both the government and the Nigeria media towards nutrition education for children in Primary schools and educational structures to be put in place at Primary schools in the state as well as Nutrition budget lines to tackle the problem of Malnutrtion in Katsina and Zamfara State Nigeria.

Among the recommendations, participants advised that the state ministries of health should include the media as members of the state nutrition committees, the development and/or implementation of a policy that would encourage budgeting for nutrition at the State houses of assembly.

To mark the end of the 5 day Workshop, participants noted and commended the Zamfara and Katsina state Ministry of health for taking the lead in ensuring better nutrition advocacy in their respective states and for partnering the media towards putting in place a mechanism to build awareness and educate the masses on the dangers of malnutrition including engagement with the states and other relevant actors.

SUCCESES

  1. During the workshop and field visit, all the WINNN states were represented, except Jigawa.
  2. The programme has obviously enjoyed a lot of good will from the Government of the states where WINNN is being implemented. This was seen in the warm reception of the media and WINNN team at every interaction with the Government partners
  3. The journalists appeared quite co-operative, ensuring they complied with Save the Children’s internal policies while they were in the field.
  4. The journalists were excited about the new knowledge they gained. They are willing to take the advocacy forward and even opted to start a “Nutrition Media Advocates Network” when they get to their states. Those who attended the workshop created a WhatsApp group for better information sharing among themselves.

“Nutrition issues are being underreported. Until this field trip, I didn’t know malnutrition in Nigeria was this severe. I think it was a good thing for the press to be taken to the field to see first-hand.” – Oludare Richards, Guardian Newspaper

“Before I came to this workshop, I knew the basics. Now, I’ve seen more angles to report on. It has helped me see evidence in the field. Now, you’ll see improved reporting and more frequency and we’ll try our best to hold the stakeholders accountable” Ojoma Akor, Daily Trust Newspaper