Members of Parliament (MPs) under HIV/ Aids and Nutrition Committee have asked government to revert the Department of Nutrition, HIV and Aids (DNHA) back to the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) if the department is to stay relevant.
Gausi presenting a nutrition budget analysis before members of parliament.-Photo by Watipaso Mzungu, Nyasa Times A cross section of MPs who attended the workshop-Photo by Watipasa Mzungu, Nyasa Times
The committee chairperson Deus Gumba argued that there has been compromised service delivery at the department since it was placed under the Ministry of Health and Population.
Gumba made the remarks in Lilongwe on Thursday evening during a budget analysis presentation by a consortium of civil society organisations working in the nutrition sector.
With funding from the European Union (EU) and Care Malawi, Save the Children International, Civil Society Organisations Nutrition Alliance (CSONA) and Civil Society Agriculture Network (CISANET), are lobbying MPs to push for increased funding to the DNHA and passing of the Food and Nutrition Bill.
Gumba hinted that the committee will also lobby government to consider creating a separate ministry responsible for nutrition, HIV and Aids so that it should have its own vote in the national budget.
"There was a time when DNHA was under OPC and it used to have a lot of influence on government MDAs [Ministries, Departments and Agencies]. But this time, it's under the Ministry of Health and as you are aware, the Ministry of Health is very big and the head of that department is merely a director. And as a director, he cannot fire shots on Principal Secretaries," he said.
"As members of Parliament, we are the mouthpiece of the country. It is indeed incumbent upon us to lobby the Ministry of Finance to increase resources to such sectors, which we feel have been neglected. So, I can assure the nation that when we get back to Parliament, we will speak on behalf of Malawians on the need to increase funding to the nutrition sector," Gumba added.
CSONA national coordinator Joseph Gausi observed that nutrition is one of the neglected sectors in terms of allocation in the budget.
Gausi disclosed that the alliance has 'compelling' evidence, which shows that because Malawi is not addressing its nutrition problem, its impacts are becoming more severe on the economy.
"You look at the cost of hunger; it is showing that we are losing 10 percent of our annual gross domestic product related to malnutrition. So, each and every year, we do budget analysis so that we equip members of Parliament with evidence-based advocacy on nutrition. We know that they can use their influence; they have a platform to engage the Minister of Finance and other relevant ministries in government to advocate for more funding towards nutrition," he said.
Save the Children International deputy country director Stanly Phiri said nutrition financing has a lot of gaps.
Among others, Phiri observed that government managed to recruit the staff only without providing resources to enable them deliver.
"We appreciate what government has done by placing manpower at the district level [nutrition officers], but we need to give them resources so that they can out their mandate," he said.