By Peter Duru

Makurdi—The United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, yesterday said over 67 percent of women in Nigeria are anaemic. 

UNICEF Nutrition Specialist, Mrs Ngozi Onuora who made the disclosure during a five day ‘Community of Practice workshop on Building Capacity to Mainstream Nutrition into the Investment Agenda, lamented the effect of malnutrition on the overall health and wellbeing of the mother and child. 

While speaking on the objective of the workshop and the ‘Effective Management of First 1,000 days Window of Opportunity for Every Child – Strategic Preventive Option’, Mrs Onuora noted that the issue of malnutrition is multi-layered, emphasising that the nutrition of the mother and child in the first 1,000 days of the baby’s life starting from the first nine months in the womb and two years after birth remains critical to the well being of the mother and child. 

According to her, “67 percent of women in Nigeria are anaemic. For the purpose of child bearing, you will need to build up her blood level otherwise she will die. She cannot survive that pregnancy; we must boost their blood.” 

While also lamenting the rate of child malnutrition in the country, Mrs. Onuora said Nigeria had been rated first in Africa and second in the global malnutrition burden with 17 million undernourished children which poses a huge threat to the general well being of the country. 

She observed that the investments in the nutrition of infants, children and mothers would boost growth stressing that nutrition from the womb, infancy and early child was essential for child survival, growth, quality physical development and productivity. 

“From the womb, infancy and early childhood, first 1,000 days are the critical window for growth and development,” she said. 

In his presentation, titled ‘Conceptual Framework on Maternal and Child Nutrition, Expanded’, the National Coordinator Academic and Research Network, Scaling up Nutrition in Nigeria, Prof Kola Anigo explained that “nutrition is a critical part of human development.” 

While listing some of the impact and consequences of malnutrition Prof. Anigo noted that “malnutrition creates significant threat to human existence.” 

Among others, he said, “it is the reason for wastage, stunted growth, poor and impaired brain development in children as well as premature deaths.” 

Also, the Advocacy, Campaign and Policy Manager, Save the Child, International and Chairman Steering Committee, Civil Society Scaling Up Nutrition in Nigeria, CSSUNN, Innocent Ifedilichukwu, who spoke on ‘Tracking Investments in Maternal, Infant and Young Child Nutrition in Nigeria’ warned that Nigeria might not make desired progress until the knotty issue of malnutrition is adequately tackled headlong. “We must scale up nutrition.” 

While canvassing dedicated interest in malnutrition and the danger it poses to the overall wellbeing of the country, Ifedilichukwu noted that interest plays a critical role in the actualisation of set objectives and vision. 

Declaring the workshop open earlier, the Enugu State Commissioner for Budget and Planning, Dr. David Ugwunta who commended UNICEF for taking the lead in the advocacy for maternal and child health urged all participants to key into the objectives of the workshop in order to cascade same in their respective states. 

On his part, the Executive Secretary of Enugu State Primary Healthcare Centre Development Agency, Dr. George Ugwu commended UNICEF for its tireless interventions in the state and other parts of the country. “I must say that we are impressed and pleased with the outcomes.” 

While lamenting the impact insecurity is creating on the nutrition of mothers and children, Dr. Ugwu stated that there is no better time to aggressively tackle the issue of malnutrition in the country than now. 

In a goodwill message, the Permanent Secretary, Benue State Planning Commission, Mr. David Leval who commended UNICEF for its far reaching interventions in the state stressed that the global organization “has encouraged us to move with determination to eradicate malnutrition from Benue state and we have taken the matter seriously. 

“Hence food and nutrition have been treated as a special package in the next budget of the state. We must support, encourage and commend what UNICEF is doing because it has helped us to wake up to our responsibilities to ensure that we tackle the menace of malnutrition in our state.

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