Nigeria is a dying nation in various senses. The present is in tatters and the future is so compromised that it is only a prospect in bland terms. The state of the nation is portrayed by the state of our children â€“ they are dying.
The most recent UNICEF assessment of the status of the Nigerian child is a monumental statement about an uncaring country that has reduced all it does to politics of power sharing, and power holding. The unstrained looting of the country for the benefit of a few, who think their interests are more important than what happens to Nigeriaâ€™s 140 million people has become a competitive passion for our politicians. It is one credo that cuts across the political parties, the only disagreement is on the method of execution.
About 10 million Nigerian children under five years suffer from chronic malnutrition. Another seven million are under weight. These figures are weighty, but they mean nothing to our politicians, who are busy planning for successions in 2011 and 2012. They are comfortable running a country its future excludes its human resources requirements.
UNICEF is launching several initiatives to combat the situation, but it is sad our governments do not understand the implications of millions of our children being denied a future.
Malnutrition causes 50 per cent of deaths of children under five years old in Nigeria. Poverty is at the centre of the problem. Policies of uncaring governments that loot the treasure or engage in bogus programmes that hamper the countryâ€™s productivity affect the children mostly, causing millions to die, or grow up as adults who would suffer many health defects.
The shame of it is that Nigeria is listed among the leading 20 countries in the world that account for 80 per cent of malnutrition in children. Only two of these countries are in Africa.
Malnutrition results from lack of food. Where food is available, millions of Nigerian families cannot afford it because of rising costs and the fact that different economic policies are creating more unemployment, high cost of living and ultimately deny the majority of the people access to health facilities.
Of the children involved, most are of school age. A combination of poverty, ignorance, and lack of access to medical facilities fracture these childrenâ€™s future if that can be called a future.
Nobody seems to be concerned about their future. The authorities are too occupied to recognise the importance of schemes that would improve the nutrition of the children. The statistics might actually be understated.
Whatever they are, they are damning enough to make the authorities to act at all levels. UNICEF calls the situation â€œa silent emergency.â€ The authorities have to see it in that light. The future of a country is tied to the future of its children. It cannot be different for Nigeria.
Unless something is done promptly, worsening poverty will continue killing our children and mitigate Nigeriaâ€™s chances ofÂ ever being competitive.