By Chioma Obinna
As the insurgency in the North East worsens the situation of malnourished children in the region, the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF has said that adequate investment in nutrition will save no 33 percent of Nigerian children from poverty in adulthood.
UNICEF Nutrition Consultant, Dr Davis Omotola in a presentation during a two -day ‘Media dialogue on child nutrition in Northeast Nigeria’, organised by the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, in collaboration with Child Rights Information Bureau (CRIB) of the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture and partners, in Yola, explained that for every dollar invested in reducing stunting among children, there is a return of investment of $16 dollars.
Omotola who noted gave insight into the impact of investing in nutrition also explained that adequate investment would also prevent nearly half of child mortality, boost the economy by 50 percent and increase school attainment by at least one year.
He further disclosed that currently, wasting affects 25 million children under five years in Nigeria while a total of 10 million are stunted.
While noting that child malnutrition is present in the six geo-political zones, he said children in the North East are the worst hit.
“Number of children is not directly liked to the magnitude of malnutrition problem. One case of Severe Acute Malnutrition, SAM, in every six children is reported in North East emergency states. One SAM case is reported in every 7 children are reported in 9 northern none emergency states. Also, only SAM case for every 71 children is reported to have SAM in the rest of the country. About 50 percent of children in the 12 Northern states are stunted. Only 20 percent of children in the rest of the country are stunted,” he stated.
“Insurgency has resulted in high food insecurity, increasing the spread of endemic and disease, limited dietary diversity, poor and deteriorating healthcare system, loss of livelihoods amongst others”
Also in his presentation, UNICEF Nutrition Officer, Dr Martins Jackson who presented efforts of UNICEF in collaboration with the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (UK-DFID) in tackling the menace in Borno and Yobe states disclosed that no fewer than 1, 239, 802 children were given Vitamin ‘A’ supplementation in the two states.
Jackson said a total of 195,000 pregnant women were given Iron/ Folate supplement to prevent them from anaemia and 32,000 mothers were given N5, 000 each on monthly basis as an incentive for exclusive breastfeeding and complementary feeding.
“These interventions were geared toward improving nutritional security of under-five children, pregnant and lactating women, as well as promoting nutrition in the first 1,000 days of life”.
In his welcome address, Deputy Director/Head, Child Rights Information and Culture, Mr. Olumide Osanyinpeju, maintained that investment in child malnutrition could prevent death in young children, particularly those under five years of age.
Osanyinpeju noted that malnutrition was a large burden to a country and tackling it entails empowering and educating people.
He further stated that improved nutrition was the key to improved national and human development and can be done by educating the populace and creating a positive approach towards nutrition.
He added that addressing nutrition is one way through which sustainable development goals can be achieved.
Osanyinpeju charged the media to help in raising awareness and understanding of the problem of malnutrition in Nigeria and resource allocation for food and nutrition security at all levels.
“It is necessary that awareness is created among the populace especially for mothers, both lactating and non-lactating mothers to give within the first six months of birth the breastmilk which is enough for the infant as nutrition is key to national development,” he noted.
On his part, UNICEF Communication Specialist, Dr. Geoffrey Njoku while giving insight into the programme noted that the objective of the media dialogue was to present facts and figures to expose the current situation of malnutrition in the North East.
“UNICEF believes that journalists can help set the agenda for action against all forms of child malnutrition: be it severe acute malnutrition or stunting”, he said.