United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Thursday said about 2.5 million children under the age of five in Nigeria are suffering severe acute malnutrition.
UNICEF’s nutrition specialist, Ms. Abigail Nyukuri, stated this at a two-day media dialogue on integrated and timely response to nutrition-related humanitarian needs, organised in Maiduguri, the Borno state capital. According to her, an estimated 440,000 boys and girls under age 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 Northeastern 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 LGAs.
“The poor nutrition situation is further exacerbated by 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 be increased 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 result is estimated at 16 percent annually,” Nyukuri said.
In his remarks, the Minister of Information, 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 been made by the government through policies and structures which aim at managing the situation in the country.
Represented by Olumide Osanyinpeju, the ministry’s Deputy Director and Head of Child Rights Information Bureau, the Minister 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. Tijjani wants Nigeria-Korea model school replicated in 6 geo-political zones “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.”