One in five children in Enugu State shows signs of stunted growth owing to malnutrition, the State Government said.

Deputy Governor, Cecilia Ezeilo, made the disclosure over the weekend at a one-day health stakeholders engagement in Enugu, the capital.

Mrs. Ezeilo represented the State at the meeting organized by her Budget and Planning Ministry in Collaboration with United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF).

Specifically, UNICEF revealed that the rate of child stunting in Enugu State is currently at 15 percent.

“Approximately 147,816 children have shorter than expected height for their age, with associated poor cognitive functions,” an official noted.

Deputy Ezeilo expressed concern over the increasing rate of stunting which has almost doubled, from eight to fifteen percent.

“One out of every five children under five years in the state is stunted  while breastfeeding rate is only 19 percent, she said.

It was for this reason that Enugu consequently approved micro supplements to fight chronic malnutrition and check stunted growth in children under five, she said.

This is part of a total package for which the State budgeted N7.59B to fight maternal and child malnutrition.

Enugu domesticated the national multisectoral  plan of action, and went further to develop specific sectoral and a five-year strategic plan of action on this budget.

“Government is eager to give attention to other palliative areas to reverse the deteriorating health and nutritional status among under five children in the state”.

Ezeilo commended UNICEF for supporting health and welfare programmes for children and women.

She pleaded with the agency and other health partners to assist the state get back to grooming well-fed and well nourished children.

Chief of UNICEF Enugu Field Office, Juliet Chiluwe, said her organisation stands ready to assist the state on matters of women and children’s health

The engagement offers  opportunity for awareness creation and high level advocacy on the role of nutrition to maternal and child survival, she said.

Chiluwe also pointed out the impact of nutrition on productivity, economic growth and national development.

“The event is very strategic as policy makers from the state and LGAs, relevant Federal stakeholders and the private sector are present to reinforce government support for the state to expand the scope of the nutrition programme.

“This programme, which has been at the three pilot LGAs since 2019, roll out planned strategies and community innovations to tackle nutrition issues especially in the first 1000 days, with expectations of breaking the inter-generational cycle of under-nutrition within Enugu State.

“Available evidence shows that getting the right nutrients at the right time is critical.

A federal Director in charge of Micronutrients Deficiency Control, Chief John Uruakpah, commended Enugu’s multi-sectoral stakeholders committee on food and nutrition.

She urged states to take the issues of malnutrition, under-nutrition and stunt growth more seriously.

“Countries are rated according to their ability to feed their citizens and ensure that they are healthy to enhance national optimal health and production,” he said.

He counseled campaigners on nutrition and the advocacy and action to focus on the rural communities and primary healthcare centres.

The state’s Commissioner for Budget and Planning, David Ugwunta, said that the high level meeting was to identify opportunities and challenges in tackling under-nutrition of children.

“From this meeting, we should come out with concrete and actionable plans and advocacy programmes that will be followed up and implemented to get positive desirable outcomes,” Ugwunta said.

Igwe Lawrenec Agubuzu, Chairman of Traditional Rulers Council of Enugu State, encouraged government to go all out to assist low income families improve on their feeding

“With current collaborative efforts, I sincerely believe that we can get it right and ensure the right cognitive and physical development of our children,”  he said.

Attendees came from Education and Information Ministries, and Enugu State Primary Health Care Development Agency.

Others are Enugu State Agency for Universal Health Coverage and civil society organizations.

The theme of the meeting was “Prioritising Investment in Maternal, Infant, Young Child and Adolescent Nutrition”.