|A mother breastfeeding her baby in Southwest - Lagos|
This was disclosed at a two-day Media Dialogue on Child Nutrition with the theme, ‘South-west Nigeria' holding today February 27 to 28 organised by the Ogun Ministry of Information and Strategy in collaboration with UNICEF on Tuesday in Ibadan, Oyo state.
According to UNICEF Nutrition Specialist, Akure Office, Mrs Ada Ezeogu, an estimated 17 million children in Nigeria under age five have their bodies and minds limited by stunting. “In 2012, World Health Assembly agreed to meet the target to reduce malnutrition by 2025 by 40 per cent. But with the rate Nigeria is going, Nigeria is not likely to meet the target. We are far off track.”
Stunting, she expressed, is a manifestation of the severe, irreversible physical and cognitive damage caused by chronic malnutrition early in a child. “Stunting is one of the most significant barriers to human development. Adding, she said stunting is a life sentence, which starts from the womb. Hence, it is an emergency that needs to be addressed.
She identified the challenges faced by the affected states as absence of policy on adolescent nutrition, shortage or lack of maternity leave, non-enforcement of the code of marketing of breast milk substitutes, and lack of workplace protection and support for nursing mothers.
Speaking on ‘Child Malnutrition in South West Nigeria; its Impact on Children and the Role of UNICEF', the Specialist said: “This is worse than the South-east and South-south statistic but better than the North. And we must do more as agenda setters to keep this issue on national discourse and help reverse the ugly trend.”
Now, the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Ogun State, Mr. Dayo Adeneye, who described nutrition as a complex issue, said there was need to intensify effort in order to reduce stunting. “There is need for proper nutrition, especially now that Nigeria is at a critical stage of malnutrition.”
“It is equally lamentable to discover that Nigeria’s nutrition status has not improved in the past 10 years. We cannot continue to fold our hands and stand aloof with such issues staring us at the face, especially when those affected are the vulnerable I’m the society,” he said.
Adeneye, however, quoted that 37 per cent of the children population in Nigeria representing over six million, are chronically malnourished or stunted and 18 per cent of such suffer from wasting (acutely malnourished or low weight).
He noted that the Overview of National Nutritional Level indicates that 80 per cent of the world’s stunted children live in 14 countries. “Nigeria is the second largest contributor after India.”
He, therefore, urged that all hands needed to be on deck to tackle the menace in Southwest.