Malnutrition: We can do far better

The aim to end hunger, achieve food security, improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture is one of the major Millennium Development Goals set by the World Health Organisation to achieve zero hunger all over the world. But from the look of things, this might not be achievable in Nigeria, most especially in the Northeast and Northwest.

Nigeria map

Research by UNICEF has shown very evident malnutrition, undernutrition, stunting, wasting, underweight, hidden hunger and micronutrient deficiencies in essential vitamins like vitamin A, iron, iodine and zinc, most especially, among children under the age of five with one Severe Acute Malnutrition  case for every six children, reported in emergency states of Northeastern part of Nigeria; Central Borno, MMC/Jere, Northern Yobe, Central Yobe, and Southern Yobe.

Also, one SAM case for every seven children are reported in nine northern non- emergency states. Though the rest of the country is also affected, but not as badly hit as the North.

GOVERNMENT AT ALL LEVELS; FEDERAL, STATES AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS, SHOULD KNOW THAT INVESTMENT IN CHILD NUTRITION SAVES CHILDREN AND REDUCES POVERTY IN ADULTHOOD. AND RESEARCH HAS SHOWN THAT IN AFRICA, FOR EVERY DOLLAR INVESTED IN CHILD NUTRITION, THERE IS A RETURN OF $16 DOLLARS ON INVESTMENT

 

We need to paint this picture in order for us to know that, as a nation, we are in a very precarious situation because acute malnutrition or wasting can be likened to death sentence while chronic malnutrition or stunting is a life sentence.

Globally, nearly half of all deaths among children under five are attributable to undernutrition and 1 in 2 children are said to be stunted in Northeast and Northwest while 1 in 5 children are stunted in the Southern part of Nigeria, majorly as a result of ignorance, insufficient household food security, inadequate maternal and child care, insufficient health services, unhealthy environment, inadequate education, inadequate dietary intake leading to diseases, malnutrition and death. Ironically, many of the states are known as the food baskets of the federation.

We really need to save our under-five and the future generation as under-five mortality rate in Central Yobe alone exceeds the emergency threshold of two deaths in children under five/10,000 children under five/day.

Government at all levels; federal, states and local governments, should know that investment in child nutrition saves children and reduces poverty in adulthood. And research has shown that in Africa, for every dollar invested in child nutrition, there is a return of $16 dollars on investment. So, head or tail, good nutrition for all is for the overall good of the
nation.

In the same vein, women economic and educational empowerment improves the nutritional status of children. Survey shows that the first 1,000 days between a woman’s pregnancy and child’s first two years of life is a critical window of opportunity to prevent child malnutrition.

Everything must be done on the part of government, family members and community to encourage exclusive breastfeeding because this will improve a child nutritional status. When a child is exclusively breastfed, research has shown that the child’s Intelligent quotient increases, immunity against child killer diseases are assured, chances of succumbing to malnutrition is limited; money that would have been spent on  illness is saved.

Therefore, all hands must be on deck to save the lives of all Nigerian children with a special focus on the Northeast, simply because insurgency is worsening child malnutrition in that axis.

We must adopt a holistic approach to fight malnutrition in our society. With just N22, 000, we will save a child on the brink of death. As government and donor organisations are playing their roles, let us all support the efforts to end malnutrition.

This is very important because a malnourished child is everybody’s burden. Let’s all join hands to save Nigeria’s future by ending insurgency which fuels malnutrition for the peace of all.

Let us remember that the implication of the above statistic is that Severely Acute Malnourished children in the North-East are none times more likely to die before their peers and this also has multi-level dire health implications for mothers.

As a nation, we should know that total dependence on donor funding and others, is not sustainable; government must play a lead role as Nigeria’s GDP will worsen if malnutrition in the Northeast is not stopped.

Availability of affordable varieties of foods will ensure that all women of childbearing age are properly fed in order to prepare their body for the task ahead in being able to give birth to healthy babies as well as support them to do exclusive breastfeeding from age 0-6 months and also feeding the babies with appropriate balanced diets
thereafter.

Currently, wasting affects 25 million children under five years in Nigeria while a total of 10 million are
stunted.

Adequate investment in nutrition will save about 33 percent of Nigerian children from poverty in adulthood. Not only that, it will also help in solving some of the security problems at hand.

The Federal Government, states and local government need to own the ‘stop malnutrition’ campaign by scaling up nutrition agenda in the country. So also are the multi-sectoral and inter-agencies in the country.

As a nation, by 2030, we must truly be seen to be ready to end hunger and ensure access by all people, in particular the poor and people in vulnerable situations, including infants, to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year
round.

What are we doing to achieve the internationally agreed targets on stunting and wasting in children under five years of age, and address the nutritional needs of adolescent girls, pregnant and lactating women and older persons?

The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed a Decade of Action for Nutrition, 2016-2025, Nigeria must not be left out. It should not be just about rhetorics from politicians and other government functionaries, but real actions geared towards truly ending malnutrition in. Nigeria.

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