Nigeria’s record on child nutrition poor, with the country rated first in Africa and second globally on child malnourishment.
Kola Anigo, a UNICEF resource person, made this depressing disclosure in a paper he presented to stakeholders on child nutrition.
Anigo drew the data from an NDHS 2018 report that listed Nigeria as number one in Africa for malnourished children. The country also ranked second worst globally, he said.
He said Nigeria has 35 million malnourished children under five, 14 million stunted, three million wasted, and 24 million Anemic.
The country currently ranks 152 out of 157 countries on the human capital index on health education.
Anigo addressed stakeholders from 12 states brought together by UNICEF in Enugu to brainstorm solutions to the challenge.
Their five-day intensive workshop on nutrition began on Monday and ended today Friday, 7 October in Enugu.
UNICEF hoped to use the workshop to prompt subnational governments to mainstream children nutrition into their policy agenda.
Participants came from Enugu, Akwa Ibom, Benue, Delta, Anambra, Kogi, Imo, Rivers, Bayelsa, Ebonyi, Cross River, and Abia states.
Enugu State Commissioner for Budget and Planning, David Ugwunta, flagged off the event on Monday. He advised participating states to heed the UNICEF call. The country can avoid the devastating effect of maternal and child nutrition on society, Ugwunta said.
UNICEF manager of Enugu Field Office, Juliet Chiluwe, encouraged participants to be fully engaged in the process. She said prior presentations showed that states are worried about changing the narrative. More of such engagements will mainstream nutrition into the policy framework, she said,.
Chiluwe encouraged the participants “to cross fertilize and learn from each other.” By benchmarking their peers from child-friendly states, they “get to know what is happening, and their policy direction,” she said.
She said UNICEF continues to identify specific areas to partner with anyone for support of the child in the states.
A UNICEF nutrition specialist, Ngozi Onuora, told participants that Nigeria needs an annual investment of N103.96 billion to solve the problem. This figure, she said, can save the lives of 123,379 children under five and avert 889,657 cases of stunning annually.
The major challenge as inadequate funding and lack of commitment to nutrition policy at all tiers of government, she said.
The resource persons took the participants on strategies to for sustainable investment in nutrition. They also learnt how to develop good practices and solutions for integrating nutrition in government framework and processes. They also tried their hands at developing state specific roadmap to entrench nutrition in state investment plans.
Nigeria’s record on child nutrition is poor, says expert.