Malnutrition: 2.5 Anually Malnourished Nigerian Children At Risk of Death
By Lewis Asubiojo
Nigeria will have to redouble its efforts in its attempt to reduce the high rate of malnutrition in the country in view of the potential threat posed by the scourge as 20% of its 2.5 million annually malnourished children are at the risk of immediate deaths.
At the moment, over 13 million Nigerian Children are said to be suffering from chronic malnutrition, a condition also known as stunting, thus making Nigeria the number one country in Africa with the highest number of the stunted and second highest in the world.
Malnutrition is a condition that occurs when people consistently do not consume or absorb the right amounts and types of food and essential nutrients. Globally, it contributes to nearly half of all child deaths which are more than 3 million children each year.
Besides, an estimated 2.5 million children are also afflicted with severe acute malnutrition (SAM) with the burden more severe in the north than in the south with between 60-80% of SAM cases found in Northern Nigeria. Without treatment, over 400,000 of them will die in 2016 alone.
Despite the importance of exclusive breastfeeding to child survival, only 17% of children under six months old are exclusively breastfed in Nigeria while iron deficiency accounts for 20% of the estimated 536,000 maternal deaths in Nigeria.
But with the support of United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF),other partners and various stakeholders Nigeria is said to be making tremendous progress in addressing the problem as a five year National Strategic Plan of Action for Nutrition (2014-2019) have been developed to counter what has now been widely described as Nigeria’s silent crisis.
While Nigeria is currently providing a robust intervention targeting at the management of acute malnutrition in the more affected states, efforts are also being made by continuously implementing community nutrition services such as infant and young child feeding, and micronutrient deficiency control measures on limited scale.
Despite this commitment in budget and financing, nutrition interventions remain very limited and heavily external-funded. For example, only US$ 10 million out of the US$49 million spent on nutrition in 2013 came from the government.”
These were some of the revelations on the state of malnutrition in Nigeria.at the end of a two-day Media Dialogue on Child Malnutrition organised recently by UNICEF in partnership with the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture for media practitioners, nutritionists and other stakeholders in Nigeria.
Held at the De Legend Hotel, Owerri, Imo State from July 13 to July 15, 2016 with the theme “Good nutrition- An investment for the future”, the dialogue featured presentations by experts on nutrition interventions in Nigeria, malnutrition and its impact on children, and media advocacy for increased resources for nutrition programming, amongst others.
Reviewing the Nigerian situation, the dialogue revealed startling discoveries on the threat posed by severe child malnutrition on the population and brainstormed on ways to improve nutrition and avert the avoidable deaths and irreversible consequences of acute child malnutrition
The media dialogue is one in a series of nationwide dialogues by UNICEF currently on-going in the country to develop the capacity of media practioners and stakeholders through acquisition of adequate knowledge on the state of malnutrition for effective and accurate reporting of malnutrition to attract more investment on the problem and for benefits of Nigerians.
The event also provided participants the opportunity to visit some malnourished children at the Federal Medical Centre, Owerri to see for themselves the exact state of malnourished children during which the visiting participants were encouraged by hospital officials to visit some specific communities in the states to see more cases of malnutrition.
Speaking at the event, Ms Doune Porter, UNICEF Chief of Communications in Nigeria revealed that about 400 malnourished children had received community based Management of Acute Malnutrition services (CMAM) which is currently being implemented in 12 states while 77,000 lives had been saved through CMAM services.
Porter lamented that more than 2.5 million children in Nigeria are currently suffering from acute malnutrition and that about 20% of them would die if urgent attention is not taken to treat the affected children
She expressed the belief that malnutrition could be prevented in Nigeria by avoiding giving children between 0-6month water during exclusive breast feeding period.
Since UNICEF and government could not do it alone, Porter appealed to media practitioners and stakeholders to promote and propagate the campaign against malnutrion to encourage Nigerian government to invest more on nutrition.
Dr Chris Osa Isokpunwu, Head of Nutrition at the Federal Ministry of Health in a presentation titled: The Nutrition Situation in Nigeria: An overview of Malnutrition in Nigeria and its impacts on Children, said Nigeria loses 2,300 under five years olds and about 145 women of childbearing age each day, making the country the second highest contributor to the under-five and maternal mortality in the world.
Isokpunwu added that Nigeria is faced with triple burden of under nutrition, micronutrient deficiency and over nutrition which among other things equally lead to stunting, wasting, underweight and children not doing well in schools.
While calling for concerted efforts to confront the scourge of malnutrition in the country, he nutritionist, disclosed that a whopping $912 million would be needed by government to implement successfully the National Nutrition Intervention Plans to check the scourge of malnutrition resulting in high rate of infant and mother mortality in Nigeria.
He therefore stressed the need for behavioural changes, micronutrients intervention and de worming, therapeutic, and feeding intervention to reduce the rate of malnutrition in the country.
A Nutrition specialist with UNICEF Mr. Zacharia Fusheini, in his presentation disclosed that based on available statistics not less than 1000 children die in Nigeria everyday as a result of malnutrition.
Fusheini who said UNICEF had invested about $180 million to fight the scourge of malnutrition in the country called on government to put in place immediate action plan to address cases of severe malnutrition in the country.
Mr Chido Onumah, Coordinator of African Centre for Media and Information (AFRICMIL) appealed to journalists, media practitioners and stakeholders to support government through regular usage of their respective platforms to sensitise and educate Nigerians about the potential danger of malnutrition.