Experts bemoan high prevalence of malnutrition in Nigeria

UNICEFA Nutrition Specialist with the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), Mrs. Ada Ezeogu, has recently described the country’s malnutrition rate as unacceptable.

Ezeogu, who said this in Ibadan, Oyo State during a two- day media dialogue on child malnutrition noted that Nigeria’s national prevalence is higher than the global average.

According to her, Nigeria’s record in the three indicators of malnutrition thus stunting, wasting and underweight as quoted in the 2013 National Nutrition and Health Survey global are not pleasant.

She elaborated further that the global average for stunting, a main indicator of malnutrition was less than 20 per cent, whereas 37 per cent of Nigerian children are affected, which translates to one third of all Nigerian children stunted.

The nutrition expert remarked that the acceptable global average for wasting an acute form of malnutrition and underweight is less than five and 10 per cent respectively. “But in Nigeria, wasting and underweight still looms at 18 and 29 per cent respectively. This she described as a triple burden of malnutrition for Nigeria.”

She regretted that stunting, which is the chronic form of malnutrition is the most prevalent in the country but often times not taken into cognizance because victims only appear short for their age but do not look malnourished.“This means one out of every three children in the country is short for their age,” she added.

Ezeogu noted that owing to the stunting rate, one out of every three children in the country is short for their age, “but the problem is not the shortness but how it affects their mental and cognitive development,” she expressed.

The UNICEF nutrition specialist identified mortality, morbidity and disability as part of the short term consequences of stunting while adult size, intellectual ability, economic productivity, reproductive outcomes among others as long term cost.

“Severe wasting in the absence of any intervention can as well result to death since victims are nine times at risk as compared to other children,” she noted.She stated some major causes of malnutrition to be poverty, inadequate dietary intake, unhealthy household environment, and lack of health services among others.Ezeogu maintained that malnutrition accounts for more than 50 per cent of under-five mortality in Nigeria.

Also addressing media practitioners at the meeting was a representative from the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH), Mrs. Ogunbumi Omotayo, who noted that Nigeria has the highest number of stunted under five children in sub-Saharan Africa, and the second highest in the world, with her malnutrition prevalence.

Omotayo added that according to the 2013 Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey, Infant Mortality rate is 69/100 live births, under-five Mortality rate is 128/1000 live births, where as 17 per cent were Exclusively Breast fed and only 10 per cent of children aged 6- 23 months were fed appropriately.

UNICEF’s Communication Specialist, Mr. Geoffrey Njoku, said the meeting, which was tagged “Good Nutrition, Invest More” with a hash tag: “stopChildMalnutritionNigeria” was geared towards empowering media practitioners to set an agenda for malnutrition because it is a silent killer.

Njoku however appealed to governments at all level to increase the political will toward prioritizing malnutrition as well as implement budget line to fund interventions.

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Mrs. Ada EzeoguUNICEF
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