OWERRI (Sundiata Post) – Over 2.5 million children are suffering from Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) annually in Nigeria with about 20 per cent of them at the risk of imminent death unless there is quick intervention, Sundiata Post can reveal.
More worrisome is the fact that acute child malnutrition, contrary to erroneous perception in some quarters, is no longer a problem of only the North East and parts of North West affected by insurgency. Acute child malnutrition now cuts across every state in Nigeria, as there are confirmed and shocking cases of malnutrition in other parts of the country.
Highlighting the need to reverse this worrisome trend was the thrust of the two-day media dialogue on Child Malnutrition organised by United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) in partnership with the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture for media practitioners, nutritionists and other stakeholders in Nigeria, held in Owerri, Imo State from Wednesday to Friday last week.
Participants called on the Federal Government to show more commitment towards the global efforts against child malnutrition by ensuring that governments at all levels complement the efforts of UNICEF and other development partners in fighting child malnutrition in Nigeria.
In a communique signed by the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, ignorance on proper feeding practices was identified as one of the causes of malnutrition, hence the need for proper sensitisation by the media, faith-based organisations, schools, etc., on nutrition in the homes.
“The President and all state governors should devote at least five per cent of their security votes to the fight against child malnutrition in the country. There could be no greater threat to the country than the one posed by severe child malnutrition which puts the lives of over 2.5 million innocent children on the line annually. Government should create a specific budget line for Nutrition and ensure prompt release of funds,” the communique stated.
It, however, called on government to ensure the availability of Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Foods (RUTFs) in every state for urgent interventions in cases of emergency.
It added: “Government should create enabling environment for local production of RUTFs to minimise cost. More attention should be given to the prevention of malnutrition to avoid its irreversible consequences such as stunted growth and poor brain development. To this end, consumption of bio-fortified foods should be encouraged especially among young mothers and children. Producers of flour, salt, vegetable oil and sugar should be closely monitored by the various regulatory agencies to ensure they are fortified with vitamin A and iodine.
“This development calls for corporate bodies and individuals involvement in devoting part of their earnings to support the global efforts towards eradication of child malnutrition.
“Nursing mothers should be encouraged to breastfeed their babies exclusively for the first six months of life. For effective compliance, Governments and the private sector should extend maternity leave to six months and introduce paternity leave for men. Government should mandate public and private institutions including worship centres and motor parks to provide crèches for nursing mothers,” the communique read.