UNICEF identifies malnutrition as killer of children in Nigeria

Malnutrition accounts for over half of the 2300 children, under the age of five who die daily in Nigeria.

The Principal Nutrition Officer at Federal Ministry of Health, Mr. Faraibi Tokunbo, who disclosed this during the three-day UNICEF media dialogue on child malnutrition, held in Kano, added that the data also shows that more than a half of those deaths from malnutrition occur in northern Nigeria.

The survey puts the number of children with acute malnutrition in northern Nigeria at 2.2 million, adding that on the face value, this may seem absurd, because the region produces variety of foods in the country, how then can its children be malnourished in the midst of variety of foods?

Tokunbo says malnutrition is when people do not eat right, “People do not consume or absorb the right amount of food or types of food required for their normal growth. One of the reasons why the rate of malnutrition is high in the north is that despite the fact that they produce more of the farm produce, most of the farm produce have not been consumed and malnutrition simply means ’when you eat, eat varieties.

“Another issue is, even when they are consuming it, are they consuming the right proportion or do they cook it very well? So malnutrition is more pronounced in northern states because of a lot of factors and one of them is not consuming what they produce and also the issue of not consuming the right and adequate food,” Tokunbo said.

Other factors responsible for malnutrition include; lack of dietary diversity, lack of exclusive breast feeding, infectious diseases and ignorance.

After analyzing the trend in northern Nigeria, it was discovered that some parents and some heads of households in the region do not place much priority to the feeding of their homes and particularly infants.

They prefer eating variety outside, why the household is fed on anything that is available without nutrients for growth and development of the body.

Some do not give eggs to children because they believe that would lead the child to steal in the future, while some traditions do not allow women to eat chicken. In some cases also, pregnant women eat less of nutritious foods and end up being malnourished themselves.

According to the participants, who were drawn from the media, including the new platform, the social media, aggressive campaigns became imperative in view of the huge burden child malnutrition is placing on the future and development of the country.

Mr. Jeffery Njoku of the Communication Section of UNICEF says child malnutrition can be caused by lack of food and also not giving the right kind of food to children.

This has been a burden for some time and governments, UNICEF, NGOs and development partners have collaborated to find solutions to the problem.

During the three-day programme, participants visited one of the intervention centres, known as the Community Based Acute Malnutrition Management Centre, in Sharada, Kano where children with malnutrition get treated.

The Nutrition Officer with the Kano State Ministry of Health, Mrs. Halima Musa Yakasai, told journalists at the Sharada Out Therapeutic Patient Treatment Centre in Kano, that the state had 30 centres in six local governments area councils, out of the 44 local councils in the state.

The overall outcome of the UNICEF Media Dialogue is that sensitization was the first step towards eliminating child malnutrition in the country.

The journalists agreed to do more in enlightening the public on the dangers of child malnutrition, which can affect the child’s growth and development.

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