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Stakeholders Decry Nigeria’s Poor Investment On Nutrition, Say Over 35 million Children Are Malnourished 

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Andy Esiet

Experts and stakeholders on nutrition and health have warned that Nigeria cannot move forward without addressing the issue of nutrition as over 35 million children in the country are malnourished. 

This warning was given in Enugu at the ongoing five days workshop (October 3 to 7) on “‘Community of Practice’ on Building Capacity to Mainstream Nutrition into the Investment Agenda” organised by the Enugu State Ministry of Budget and Planning in collaboration with United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) for select health officials, nutrition experts, journalists and others from Abia, Enugu, Cross River, Akwa Ibom and eight other states in the South East, South South and the Middle Belt zones of the country .

One of the facilitators at the workshop, Professor Kola Anigo in his paper, “The Conceptional Framework on Maternal and Child Nutrition Expanded”, said that, malnutrition is threatening the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as it is a threat to human development and “Nigeria is ranked number one in Africa and number two in the world in terms of number of children malnourished”.

He said that malnutrition in every form presents serious threats to human health and many cases are related to poor diet and not enough physical activity as statistics from Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) shows that apart from the 35 million children that are malnourished, 14 million children in Nigeria are stunted, 3 million are wasted, 24 million are anemic, 25 million people are hungry while 9.3 million people suffer from acute insecurity. 

He said the critical period of vulnerability between conception and a child’s second birthday, which is the first 1,000 days were the consequences of such nutritional deficit are potentially irreversible must be addressed to ensure that children under five years get adequate feeding with good nutrition to ensure a child’s mental and physical development. 

Moving forward, he said, there should be domestic policy and develop plan of action, increased domestic resources for nutrition, generate quality data and ensure appropriate use of such a data, keep nutrition high in national agenda, stay focused and align with a common framework and scale up high impact intervention. 

On her part, the UNICEF. Nutrition Specialist, Dr. Ngozi Onuora who gave an “‘Overview of Community Practice’ and Objectives of Workshop” , stated that there is great concerns on poor nutrition as “an annual investment in nutrition of N103.964 billion (371.3million USD) will be required to save 123,379 lives of children under five yearly and avert 889,657 cases of stunting in Nigeria (FMOH, NSPAN 2014)” .

She said, “the World Health Assembly (WHA) on nutrition targets for 2025, vision 2030 and many of the Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs) particularly SDG2 (End hunger, achieve Food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture) will not be reached unless the nutrition of women and children is prioritized in the national and states development Programmes and strategies” and this is due to inadequate funding for nutrition and commitments not implemented at National, State and local governments levels”.

Onuora called for “commitments from the variable stakeholders, show of political will, prioritization of commitments, specific nutrition budget and Increase funding for nutrition, approve and Implement State Multi-sectoral Plan on Nutrition at state and LGA levels and monitor and track budgets for transparency and accountability” .

Speaking on the topic, “Tracking Investments in Maternal, Infant and Young Child Nutrition in Nigeria”, Mr. Ifedilichukwu Ekene Innocent said, “if we must scale up nutrition, we must have the right people at the right place and time as Nigeria cannot take any step forward except we address nutrition” .

He said human capital development (HCD) position in Nigeria is 152 out of the 159 in the world, hence an investment in this area is of essence in checking problems of malnutrition as investment in nutrition promotes growth and development considering the fact that “Nigeria is one of the countries that contribute to high burden of poor nutrition in the world” .

 On issues of budget allocation, he said large chunk of funds is domiciled with the governments with just only 3 percent coming in from international donors like UNICEF but the biggest challenge of nutrition is that most states do not budget enough for nutrition and were it is done such funds are not approved and released hence the need for the state’s to domestic food and nutrition policies and action plan to help Nigerian children.

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