Mandela day and Nigerian children

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In July 2013, I attended a programme organised by Aspen Nigeria. It was tagged International Nelson Mandela Day.  Aspen, whose headquarters is in South Africa, held the programme with the theme “Make Every Day a Mandela Day,” to celebrate the 95th birthday of the late Nelson Mandela.

That was the first time I would be part of any event connected with the great Mandela and, even though the African elder statesman was not enjoying the best of health at that time, I never thought he would exit the world a couple of months after that event.

When the news broke on December 5, 2013 that Mandela had passed on, the first thought that came to my mind was what transpired at the Aspen-organised event. The event was unique because Aspen decided to use the Mandela birthday celebration to educate pregnant women and nursing mothers on child nutrition. The one-day nutrition advocacy campaign held at Massey Street Children Hospital, Lagos Island, was, for me, a roaring success and an example of corporate social responsibility worth copying by other companies.

Even though the event was held on a rainy day, the hall was filled to capacity. More interestingly, the event was not only graced by the usual crowd I often see at health events (health professionals, eminent personalities, well-to-do individuals and so on); over 90 per cent of the audience was made up of the real people it was organised for pregnant women and nursing mothers at the grassroots level.

The participants were educated by the health professionals, including pharmacists, doctors and a nutritionist, on how to take good care of themselves and ensure proper nutrition for their infants.

The event was equally unique because it was not the usual one-way, speech-presentation type of enlightenment campaign. It was quite interactive and the pregnant women and nursing mothers fully participated, as discussions were encouraged even in the local dialect.

As part of the event, a quiz competition was also featured and the participants were asked questions on child nutrition.  Those who answered correctly were given various gift items.  However, all the women were winners as all went home with gift items from Aspen.

Perhaps, more important to me is the fact that an organisation decided to use the opportunity of the birthday of Mandela to call attention to a segment of our population that is in dire need of attention.

According to WHO, at least 225 million of the world’s children under the age of five suffer from acute and chronic malnutrition, a condition that is life-threatening and undermines children’s health and development. Nutrition, it must be emphasised, is related to most of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).  Consequently, efforts aimed at reducing child mortality and improving maternal health must seriously address nutrition issues for pregnant women, nursing mothers and children.

The late Nelson Mandela was an example worth emulating in many respects. One of such was his commitment to children. When Mandela stepped down as president of South Africa in 1999, after serving just one term, he continued to work with the Mandela Children’s Fund, an organisation he established in 1995.  He supported the Fund until his demise. This is perhaps why the decision of Aspen to mark his birthday by organising a nutrition advocacy campaign for pregnant women and nursing mothers was so fitting.

While I urge Aspen to continue with the laudable initiative, I also enjoin other organisations to emulate the exemplary footsteps of the company.

A similar initiative for children worth commending is the Osun State government’s schools feeding programme, tagged O-MEALS.  The state government is spending millions of naira to provide nutritious meals for primary school pupils.  According to reports, about 250,000 children benefit from these mid-day meals in schools across the state.

I was in Osun State last December and a number of people I spoke to about the state government’s programme were quite excited about the initiative.

These laudable initiatives should not just be commended; they must be emulated. Other state governments and organisations should be encouraged to take up the challenge.  If children are indeed the leaders of tomorrow, everything must be done today to ensure they are well prepared and equipped to lead tomorrow. And I dare say that ensuring they are well fed is the first step in this direction.

The best way to make every day a Mandela day for children is for all Nigerians to contribute positively to child nutrition daily.

Mandela day and Nigerian children (Polemic)

In July 2013, I attended a programme organised by Aspen Nigeria. It was tagged International Nelson Mandela Day.  Aspen, whose headquarters is in South Africa, held the programme with the theme “Make Every Day a Mandela Day,” to celebrate the 95th birthday of the late Nelson Mandela.

That was the first time I would be part of any event connected with the great Mandela and, even though the African elder statesman was not enjoying the best of health at that time, I never thought he would exit the world a couple of months after that event.

When the news broke on December 5, 2013 that Mandela had passed on, the first thought that came to my mind was what transpired at the Aspen-organised event. The event was unique because Aspen decided to use the Mandela birthday celebration to educate pregnant women and nursing mothers on child nutrition. The one-day nutrition advocacy campaign held at Massey Street Children Hospital, Lagos Island, was, for me, a roaring success and an example of corporate social responsibility worth copying by other companies.

Even though the event was held on a rainy day, the hall was filled to capacity. More interestingly, the event was not only graced by the usual crowd I often see at health events (health professionals, eminent personalities, well-to-do individuals and so on); over 90 per cent of the audience was made up of the real people it was organised for pregnant women and nursing mothers at the grassroots level.

The participants were educated by the health professionals, including pharmacists, doctors and a nutritionist, on how to take good care of themselves and ensure proper nutrition for their infants.

The event was equally unique because it was not the usual one-way, speech-presentation type of enlightenment campaign. It was quite interactive and the pregnant women and nursing mothers fully participated, as discussions were encouraged even in the local dialect.

As part of the event, a quiz competition was also featured and the participants were asked questions on child nutrition.  Those who answered correctly were given various gift items.  However, all the women were winners as all went home with gift items from Aspen.

Perhaps, more important to me is the fact that an organisation decided to use the opportunity of the birthday of Mandela to call attention to a segment of our population that is in dire need of attention.

According to WHO, at least 225 million of the world’s children under the age of five suffer from acute and chronic malnutrition, a condition that is life-threatening and undermines children’s health and development. Nutrition, it must be emphasised, is related to most of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).  Consequently, efforts aimed at reducing child mortality and improving maternal health must seriously address nutrition issues for pregnant women, nursing mothers and children.

The late Nelson Mandela was an example worth emulating in many respects. One of such was his commitment to children. When Mandela stepped down as president of South Africa in 1999, after serving just one term, he continued to work with the Mandela Children’s Fund, an organisation he established in 1995.  He supported the Fund until his demise. This is perhaps why the decision of Aspen to mark his birthday by organising a nutrition advocacy campaign for pregnant women and nursing mothers was so fitting.

While I urge Aspen to continue with the laudable initiative, I also enjoin other organisations to emulate the exemplary footsteps of the company.

A similar initiative for children worth commending is the Osun State government’s schools feeding programme, tagged O-MEALS.  The state government is spending millions of naira to provide nutritious meals for primary school pupils.  According to reports, about 250,000 children benefit from these mid-day meals in schools across the state.

I was in Osun State last December and a number of people I spoke to about the state government’s programme were quite excited about the initiative.

These laudable initiatives should not just be commended; they must be emulated. Other state governments and organisations should be encouraged to take up the challenge.  If children are indeed the leaders of tomorrow, everything must be done today to ensure they are well prepared and equipped to lead tomorrow. And I dare say that ensuring they are well fed is the first step in this direction.

The best way to make every day a Mandela day for children is for all Nigerians to contribute positively to child nutrition daily.

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