No fewer than 2.5 million underage Nigerian children have been declared suffering from acute malnutrition by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
UNICEF’s nutrition specialist, Ms. Abigail Nyukuri, revealed this on Thursday, during a two-day media dialogue on integrated and timely response to nutrition-related humanitarian needs, organised in Maiduguri, the Borno state capital.
She said a total of 440,000 boys and girls under age five in Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe States were affected by the disease in 2019.
Nyukuri, also added that the prevalence rates of severe acute malnutrition in the three Northeastern states are 11, six, and 13 percents respectively, blaming the situation on the insecurity and other challenges in the region for the worsening situation.
Her words: “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, however, 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.
While giving his remarks, the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said Nigeria’s future was in the hand of well bred children.
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.
“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.”
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