The 3rd edition of the National Nutrition Fair has concluded in Freetown amidst pledges by the government and its partners to promote nutrition.
The three days event, which ran from February 5 to 7, 2020, brought together relevant government agencies and other stakeholders in the fight against malnutrition, including the UN and other local and international donor agencies, as well as civil society organizations, to showcase achievements in the last two years and share common challenges on how they have been contributing to the crusade in Sierra Leone.
Vice President Dr. Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh formally opened the event at a grand ceremony convened at the hall of the Miata Conference Center, where he pledged the government’s continued commitment to the fight against malnutrition.
VP Jalloh cited President Julius Maada Bio’s declaration a few weeks earlier of 2020 as a year of delivery for his administration. He said the government was determined to build on all its gains in the last two years it had been in office, including on health.
“We have done enough in the social front, we increased budget allocation in health to 11 percent, and also invested in water resources and many sectors,” he stated.
The fair was organized under the auspices of the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement, under the leadership of the Office of the Vice President which houses the national SUN Secretariat.
SUN Sierra Leone is part of the global SUN Movement which is a global push for action and investment to improve on maternal and child nutrition. The movement is a coalition of governments, civil society, and international development partners in 60 countries, which are working on efforts to end malnutrition in the respective member countries.
This edition of the annual National Nutrition Fair was graced by the Global SUN Coordinator and Assistant UN Secretary-General, Gerda Verburg, who praised Sierra Leone’s efforts in the fight against malnutrition while calling for more action to meet global targets.
Ms. Verburg, who co-launched the 2020 fair alongside Vice President Jalloh, in the course of her three-day visit to the country held meetings with various partners in the SUN Movement, including government and UN agencies. She also visited agricultural and nutrition sites in Bo, where she interacted with service providers and local stakeholders.
The fair was held on the forecourt of the Miata Conference Center centered on the theme: “Together, nourish Salone and build the human capital.
Over 50 booths were constructed to host the participating organizations, including service providers (government, businesses, and NGOs) and producers (farmers), who display evidence of their work in the efforts to end malnutrition.
The organizers said the fair was meant to draw the attention of the central government and all relevant development partners to the importance of food and nutrition in building the human capital of the country. The theme was therefore deliberately aligned with the government’s development priority, which is the development of the country’s human capital.
The overall goal of the fair is to mobilize resources for food and nutrition activities in the country. The SUN Movement said it was also expected to create additional opportunities for parents and service providers to learn more about infant and young child feeding practices at the household and community levels, adding that it would also provide a platform for partners to engage in different aspects of nutrition to network and strengthen collaborative efforts.
Sierra Leone made significant progress in the fight against malnutrition in the last 10 years. Between 2010 and 2017, for instance, Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) reportedly dropped from 8.5 percent to 5.1 percent.
But campaigners say the level of reduction has not impacted significantly on the current high level of malnutrition in the country. Of particular concern has been the high rates of stunting and underweight among children under 5 years, as well as micro-nutrient deficiency among pregnant and lactating mothers.
Malnutrition is a leading contributor to Sierra Leone’s twin health crisis of infant and maternal mortality.
Sierra Leone signed to the SUN initiative in 2012, and in 2013 the country registered as a member of the global SUN Movement.
Civil society plays a major part in the campaign. The health NGO, FOCUS 1000, is leading the CSO platform.
Mohamed B. Jalloh, Chief Executive Officer of FOCUS 1000, said the movement offered simple and effective interventions to fight malnutrition, which is crucial in the fight against maternal and child mortality.
“There is no way to reduce maternal and infant mortality without ending malnutrition,” he said.
“Nutrition goes beyond food, but there are a lot of other issues, water, and sanitation, immunization,” Jalloh added while emphasizing on the need for collaboration.
By Kemoh Cham
FOCUS 1000 Kombra Media Network