Malnutrition is one of world’s major public health and development concerns. Currently in Nigeria, the situation is dire particularly in the northern region. According to a report in 2020, Nigeria has a national prevalence rate of 32% of children under five. The United Nations Children’s Fund, (UNICEF) has identified insecurity as one of the factors propelling malnutrition in Nigeria. It, therefore cautioned that the country’s development efforts would amount to nothing if proactive measures were not taken to curb the menace.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates that two million children in Nigeria are suffering with Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM), yet only two out of every ten of these children are receiving treatment for their condition. SAM is identified to be the most severe and visible manifestation of malnutrition. Even as studies reveal that 10–20% of Nigerian women are undernourished, acute malnutrition affects only 7% of women of reproductive age in the nation.
Nigeria ranked highest in Africa on the malnutrition list.
Women lack the resources to break the cycle of malnutrition in Nigeria despite the fact that the first 1,000 days of a child’s life provides a unique gap of chance to prevent undernutrition and its effects. In a recent UN report, stating that 14.5 million Nigerians need immediate assistance to meet their nutritional requirement. This has caused concern among experts that malnutrition affecting children’s conditions and may worsen symptoms. According to a report, one-third of the nation’s children are underweight, and one-tenth of them are wasted, putting the country well off track to meet SDG 2 by 2030, which aims to end all forms of hunger.
UNICEF Nutrition Specialist Mrs. Ngozi Onuora, raised the concern about the malnutrition in the country during a Community of Practice workshop on Building Capacity to Mainstream Nutrition into Investment Agenda, said Nigeria faced the prospect of not meeting the Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs, with over 17 million malnutrition instances which ranked the country as the highest in Africa. She explains that nutrition being the central point for health, should be the anchor of every action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Government should prioritize the plan against malnutrition.
Mrs. Onuora continues that the governments, the private sector and the people in general should be made aware of their various contributions to scale up nutrition interventions and address the issues of stunting, wasting, underweight, and anemia deluging children and mothers across the country. She further emphasizes on the high burden in the northern part of the country, lamenting that malnutrition cases have always been prevalent in the region due to convergent action and the level of insecurity, especially in the Northeast, stating that even farm products are being affected by insecurity.
Additionally, she emphasized the importance of the government’s contribution in mitigating malnutrition, saying it can’t be compared to that of other organizations. She said that there is a need for the government to prioritize the plan, taking advantage of its medium and long-term strategic plans and multisectoral plans on nutrition health development system structures. Mrs. Onuora remarked that the most effective way to reduce malnutrition is to incorporate nutrition into health systems, Primary Healthcare initiatives, and basic healthcare providing budgets throughout all states. This will reduce malnutrition globally. This will sync with the global targets of reducing malnutrition.
The country is on track to curb malnutrition and its effects.
Global nutrition report shows that Nigeria is “on track” to reach the nutrition objective for maternal, infant, and young child (MIYCN). Nigeria has made some headway in reducing stunting, although 31.5% of children under 5 are still affected, which is more than the Africa average (30.7%). 28.7% of 0-5-month-old newborns are exclusively breastfed. Progress has also been made towards attaining the wasting objective, although 6.5% of children under 5 are still affected, which is more than the Africa average (6.0%).