The Scaling Up Nutrition and Immunization Civil Society Platform (SUNI-CSP) and partners have successfully ended a three day National Health and Nutrition Fair at the Miatta Conference Centre from 29th April-1st May, 2016 in Freetown. The theme for the Fair in Krio parlance was ‘Gud it en wↄlbodi pas gentri’ meaning, health is better than wealth.
The Health and Nutrition Fair attracted the participation of over 50 organizations including Government Ministries, UN Agencies, Donors, the Private Sector and Civil Society Organizations. The audience included a large crowd of market women, traditional healers, traditional birth attendants, religious groups, teachers, students, artists, dramatists, pregnant women, lactating mothers and a cross section of the population from the Freetown and the provinces.
The National Fair demonstrated the collaborative efforts of various partners working together to end malnutrition, and improving the health of women and children in the country. The Fair was also used to promote the country’s local food products particularly those from our local raw materials.
The Fair was launched by the Vice President of Sierra Leone Dr. Buckarie Foh who also doubles as the Chairman of the Scaling Up Nutrition Secretariat.
In officially launching the three days event, the Vice President Dr. Foh said “as a Government, we are making history again by organizing the first health and nutrition fair in Sierra Leone. This is in fulfillment of our commitment to the people of this country, that among many other things, we will take the health of our people and human development seriously.”
It could be recalled that Sierra Leone became a member of the Global Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement in 2012. Since then the country has been making considerable progress in addressing the challenges of malnutrition and working towards Food and Nutrition Security.
The Sierra Leone Food and Nutrition Security Implementation Plan made public 2nd July 2015 states three factors that necessitated the country to become a member of the SUN Movement. These three factors include:
• The huge cost of under-nutrition on the country’s economic and human development and the devastating effects of malnutrition on children and women
• The need to revamp food production and reduce under-nutrition to its barest minimum
• The establishment of a direct relationship between under-nutrition and the prevalence of infectious and other preventable diseases.
The Vice President Dr. Foh intimated his audience during the launch that his government is committed to ensuring that nutrition is at the forefront of his Government’s development agenda. “We are aware of the fact that proper nutrition is important for everyone to maintain good health. Also, we are aware of the fact that the underlying causes of infant malnutrition are inadequate access to a balanced and nutritious food, inadequate maternal and child care practices, poor water sanitation and inadequate health services. In a collaborative manner, we are committed to addressing these challenges and to building a healthy nation” says Victor Foh.
In his statement at the opening of the Fair, the UNICEF Country Representative Geoff Wiffin informed the hall that “poor nutrition during the first two years of life from pregnancy through a child’s second birthday can cause life-long and irreversible damage, with negative consequences for individuals, communities, and Sierra Leone as a whole. Nearly one-third of children under-five in Sierra Leone suffer from chronic malnutrition, commonly known as stunting. We have to act at the earliest opportunity to address chronic malnutrition and provide these children their basic right to thrive” UNICEF Rep disclosed.
Mr. Wiffin continued to say that reducing maternal and child deaths are a major priority. “Malnutrition contributes to over one-third of all deaths of children under five in Sierra Leone. Urgent action is therefore needed to address malnutrition” UNICEF Country Rep emphaised.
The Chairman of the program, Mohammad Bailor Jalloh Chief Executive Officer of FOCUS 1000 called on the government to invest in the health of women and children to reduce the high rates of maternal and infant mortality in the country.
Other stakeholders who made statements to support the course of ending malnutrition and hunger in the country were Madam Zulainatu Cooper- Deputy Minister of Health and Sanitation, Madam Aminata Shamit Koroma - Director of Food and Nutrition Ministry of Health and Sanitation, Dr. Mohamed Foh National Coordinator Scaling Up Nutrition Movement, Mr Francis Sankoh – Chief Agricultural Officer – Ministry of Agriculture, Mr. Abdulai Swaray Pikin-to-Pikin Movement and Gibril Bangura Program Manager IRISH-AID who spoke on behalf of the donors.
After the official launch of Fair, the Vice President and entourage took a walk round the booths to see some of the items displayed.
Pregnant women, suckling mothers and mothers with under five children from different parts of Freetown attended the three days event to receive information and witness cooking demonstrations on how to prepare low cost but very nutritious food during and after pregnancy.
The Fair was also used to provide basic health services including immunization to children, various family planning methods, testing for hepatitis, blood suger and high blood pressure. The Well Woman Clinic conducted screening of women for breast cancer and other conditions and made appropriate referrals.
At the end of it all participants commented that a fair like this should continue on an annual basis.
The highpoint to end the three day Fair saw grand prize of a brand new freezer given to a suckling mother and other consolation prizes to other participants after participated in a raffle draw on maternal, health and nutrition focus lucky win promotion done by FOCUS 1000 and its partners.
The three day event was fully covered by the media coordinated by the Kombra Media Network including journalists from both the print and electronic media.
By: Sallieu Sesay