The United Nations Children’s Fund has again raised the alarm that Nigeria loses about 100 children per hour due to malnutrition. This translates to about 2,400 deaths daily.
It, therefore, called for increased funding and other measures that could help in arresting the challenge urgently.
Speaking in Lagos on Thursday during an interaction with media executives, UNICEF’s Chief Nutrition Officer in Nigeria, Nemat Hajeebhoy, noted that Nigeria was moving towards a nutrition emergency. The event was organised by the National Council on Nutrition, chaired by the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo.
Hajeebhoy said one-third of children in Nigeria lived in severe food poverty, adding that the first 1,000 days of a child’s life offered a unique window of opportunity for preventing undernutrition and its consequences.
She stated, “Poor diet is robbing millions of children of their health, development and lifetime prospects, because every hour, almost 100 children under the age of five die in Nigeria. Left untreated, children with severe acute malnutrition are nearly 12 times more likely to die than a healthy child. “Nigeria is ranked number one in Africa and second in the world in terms of malnourished children.
“This is not the kind of statistics we should be proud of. Without urgent action, UNICEF estimates that approximately 14.7 million children under age five will suffer from moderate and severe acute malnutrition this year.
“Nigeria signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991 and access to good nutrition is an important right of every child. In 2003, Nigeria signed the Child Rights Act and 29 out of 36 states have strong Child Rights Act. If we have all of these in place, what are we doing about the right of these 21 million children to good nutrition?”
She pointed out that the cost of inaction to address the challenge was 15 per cent Gross Domestic Product loss for Nigeria. She also revealed that energy-only diets cost N707 per household per day while nutritious diets cost N1,687 per household per day, which is unaffordable by 34 per cent of households in the country.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Nutrition, Mrs Abimbola Adesanmi, said the event was to expand awareness of malnutrition and educate the citizens on their roles as stakeholders.