UNICEF declared in Enugu on Friday that 152,243 children below five years of age are stunted in Enugu State.
Its Planning and Monitoring Specialist, Enugu Field Office, Mrs Maureen Zubie-Okolo, made the declaration at a policy dialogue with Enugu State Executive and Legislative Councils on Investment in Nutrition.
Zubie-Okolo attributed the situation to poor nutrition arising from poor maternal, infant and young child feeding practices during the first 1,000 days of birth.
“In Enugu State, only 7.8 per cent of children below five years of age receive the minimum acceptable diet, while less than one-fifth of children 0-5 months are exclusively breastfed.
“This is a call for both the executive and legislative arms to come together to ensure that nutrition is placed on government’s agenda,’’ she said.
She said that malnutrition had become a silent emergency which, unfortunately, was receiving far too little attention.
She said that the meeting was in line with the Sustainable Development Goals agenda of ending all forms of malnutrition by 2030.
Zubie-Okolo said the goals also included achieving the internationally-agreed targets on stunting and wasting in children below five years of age by 2025.
She said that UNICEF was committed to working with its partners, including the state government to achieve the agenda.
She added that nutrition had received perennially low attention in Nigeria and in Enugu State and had, therefore, contributed to the high global malnutrition rates.
She observed that investment in scaling-up nutrition would yield immediate returns, save lives, and enable children and their mothers to have a better future.
In her contribution, a Nutrition Specialist, Mrs Chizoba Steve-Edemba, said that the nutrition indices in Enugu State was so low and needed to be addressed.
Steve-Edemba appealed to the state government to extend maternity leave of nursing mothers to six months.
“This will help the state to improve nutrition outcomes for all and improve human capital development,’’ she said.
Responding, the Enugu State Commissioner for Budget and Planning, Mr David Ugwunta, said that the state government would aggregate all issues raised at the meeting and attend to them.
Ugwunta made a commitment that the budget provisions for nutrition management in the state would be improved. (NAN)