Despite the increasing number of child malnutrition in Nigeria, report has shown that food insecurity is now widespread nationwide with Lagos, Borno, Katsina, Kaduna, Jigawa, and Kano states having the highest number of people experiencing food and nutrition insecurity in the country. According to the Cadre Harmonisé report, 26 States and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, a total of 17.6 million Nigerians were currently facing food insecurity due to the emergency situation of food and nutrition insecurity.
Speaking in Port Harcourt, Rivers state during a Two Day Media Dialogue on Child Malnutrition, with a Focus on Nutrition Financing, the United Nations Children’s Fund, Nutrition Officer, Nkeiru Enwelum, noted that the report showed that between March to May this year, the top five food and nutrition insecure states include; Lagos with 1,596,099; Borno, 1,553,499; Katsina, 1,314,123; Kaduna, 1,222,929; Jigawa, 1,063,633; and Kano, 1,006,542.
Enwelum who called for more investment in nutrition, particularly as the nation plans to come up with its next budget urged the three levels of government to come up with interventions and domestic funding for nutrition across the country.
Lamenting that the report also showed that about 3 million children are malnourished in Nigeria, she explained that quick interventions such as the release of budgeted funds for nutrition would not only impact child survival but will improve the overall socio-economic contributions to society.
She further states: “There are 35 million children under the age of five in Nigeria, 12 million of them are stunted, and 3 million are wasted. Nigeria is currently ranked first in Africa and second globally in terms of the number of children who are malnourished.”
For Enwelum, the Government must commit more money for health, and ensure that there is more health for the money committed through accountability and transparency mechanisms.
She, however, regretted that Nigeria was off track to achieving Sustainable Development Goal 2, SDG 2, by 2030, which is to achieve zero hunger, current trends show that Nigeria may likely achieve its target for exclusive breastfeeding and wasting.
“The first 1,000 days of life includes the 9 months of pregnancy and the first two years of a child’s life. Exclusive breastfeeding is very important during this period. Also, after at least six months of exclusive breastfeeding, a diverse diet is important. Data shows that only one in five infants breastfeed early, 23 percent); only one in three infants breastfeed exclusively, 34 percent; only one in three children 6 to 23 months receive a diverse diet, 31 percent.
“The first 1,000 days of life is very important to the overall development of any child, as 50 percent of the brain capacity is formed at birth, and 75 percent of the brain capacity is developed within the first two years of life. Hence, special attention needs to be given to the first 1,000 days of life as any deficiency in nutrients that affects brain formation cannot be reversed after this period. It also affects the productivity of the child when they become adults.”
Earlier, UNICEF’s Communication Specialist, Dr. Geoffrey Njoku also called for increased budgetary allocation for nutrition, and the timely release of the funds.
“We have a nutrition problem in Nigeria, and it is particularly bad for children. Although UNICEF and other partners are supporting Nigeria to combat malnutrition, the government is not putting enough money into ending the country’s nutrition problems. The government needs to put its own money into dealing with malnutrition.”
In her welcome address, the Head, of the Child Rights Information Department of the Federal Ministry of Information, Najaatu Hassan, who was represented by Mr. Temitoye Falayi acknowledged that the UNICEF and the Nigeria government have achieved some level of success in the nutrition space, adding that there was room for more achievements. “We want the Federal Government to commit more funds to nutrition for children and their future. We want to make sure that malnutrition is a thing of the past, so that we can focus on other areas of children’s survival.”