Malnutrition slowly killing Nigerian children
The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) has raised alarm that malnutrition is slowly killing Nigerian children from ages 0 to 5 years out of the 1.6 million children across the country.
In a media dialogue workshop on child malnutrition organised by UNICEF and the Child’s Right Information Bureau (CRIP) in Kano, UNICEF revealed that over 1.6 million Nigerian children, approximately 30%-47% are suffering from the scourge of malnutrition and that if nothing was done to checkmate the menace, children in the country in the next 20 years would lack the ability to compete favourably with their foreign counterparts on the intellectual scene.
The Federal Ministry of Health defines malnutrition as a pathological condition brought about by the inadequacy of one or more of the nutrients essential for survival, growth, development, reproduction and capacity to learn and function in the society. It is against this background that the ministry revealed that ignorance plays a major role in increased malnutrition in the country.
The Head of Nutrition in the Federal Ministry of Health, Dr Chris Isokpunwu, said children in both rich and poor homes could be malnourished, depending on what they ate adding that malnutrition was a silent killer.
He added that the key nutritional problems included poor infant feeding, energy and protein deficiency, lack of vitamin D and iron deficiency in their food intake.
A documentary from the FMOH shows that Nigeria loses about 2,300 under-five year olds and 145 women of child bearing age daily to issues related to malnutrition making the country the second largest contributor to the under-five and maternal mortality rate in the world.
Dr Isokpunwu who stressed that malnutrition is recorded in the homes of all social classes, maintained that two out of every five children in the country were not fed appropriately and urged mothers to exclusively breastfeed their new born babies until they are six months old.
“Exclusive breastfeeding does not require giving the baby water at all, throughout the period of six months because breast milk in itself is rich in water,” she said.
The North-west is said to be leading in the percentage rate of malnutrition in the country with 54.8 percent in the 2015 indices with Kebbi State as the state with the highest percent of stunted growth children with 61 percent.
A nutritionist, Tokunbo Farabiyi, while speaking to Daily Trust said they want the media to adopt a behaviour communication chain and advocate for higher numbers of mothers to breast feed their babies, explaining that 41 percent of mothers are practicing breast feeding with water while only 17 percent practice exclusive breast feeding.”
“Exclusive breastfeeding helps children perform well in school, and they are more successful than those who are not exclusively breastfed,” Farabiyi said.
With the #stopchildmalnutritionnigeria# UNICEF’s communication specialists, Geoffrey Njoku, reiterated the roles of the media in educating parents and the public on the importance of adding basic nutrients such as iron, protein, calcium, and vitamin to foods given to children to guarantee their wellbeing.
Coordinator, African Centre for Media and Information Literacy, Chido Onumah, who spoke on ‘Media Advocacy for Increased Resources for Child Nutrition’, emphasized the roles of the media in reversing the poor rate of malnutrition in the nation, explaining how the media could support advocacy for increased resources for nutrition programme in the country.
The representative of the Ministry of Information and Culture, Mrs. Rose Madu, said the launch was to increase access to nutritional care and treatment as well as create awareness that would engender behavioural change.
“The federal government is doing everything possible to raise the awareness of good nutritional practices and we call on all stakeholders to advocate for adequate allocation and timely releases of nutrition fund,” she said.