September 26, 2019

2.5m children suffering acute malnutrition in Nigeria – UNICEF

FILE: Malnourished children

Luminous Jannamike – Maiduguri

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said on Thursday that about 2.5 million children under the age of five in Nigeria suffer severe acute malnutrition.
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The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire

UNICEF’s nutrition specialist, Ms. Abigail Nyukuri, stated this at a two-day media dialogue on an integrated and timely response to nutrition-related humanitarian needs, organised in Maiduguri,  Borno State.
According to her, an estimated 440,000 boys and girls under the age of five in Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe States are affected by the disease in 2019.
Nyukuri, who revealed that the prevalence rates of severe acute malnutrition in the three North-East states are 11, six, and 13 percents respectively, blamed protracted access constraints and insecurity in the region for the worsening situation.
She said, “These protracted conditions have made the severe acute malnutrition situation even worse in Rann (Kala Balge), South Yobe, Magumeri, Jere, and Konduga Local Government Areas (LGAs).
“The poor nutrition situation is further exacerbated by the poor food security situation, sub-optimal water, hygiene, and sanitation practices and high disease burden.”
UNICEF warned that the key consequence of the abysmal feeding situation in several parts of Nigeria would increase poverty levels in years to come.
“Malnutrition has dire consequences in the life of a child. It is a vicious circle because a malnourished child has issues with development, a compromised immunity status, and an impaired cognitive and intellectual capacities.
“All these and other issues combine to lead to increased poverty levels in the country because these children cannot adopt productive lifestyles when they become adults. The loss to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as a result is estimated at 16 percent annually,”  the nutritionist added.
In his remarks, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, noted that Nigeria’s future depends on producing children who are well prepared to take their place in tomorrow’s society.
He, however, said efforts were being made by the government through policies and structures aimed at managing the situation in the country.
Mohammed, who was represented by the ministry’s Deputy Director and Head of Child Rights Information Bureau,Olumide Osanyinpeju, said, “Most, unfortunately, a large number of these children are at risk of deprivations of basic amenities, of which nutrition is inclusive; and especially in the northern rural and hard-to-reach communities.
“The Federal Government has come to the realisation that lack of access to basic nutrition is an infringement on the rights of the child.
“Hence, efforts have been made by the government in the provision of policies and structures to manage malnutrition in the country through various programmes to support nutrition vis-à-vis  exclusive breastfeeding, complementary feeding from six months, even the Home Grown School Feeding programme etc., which are all aimed at eliminating poor feeding practice for children.”