Nutritionists say that Nigeria needs $912 million to tackle malnutrition in the next five years, but presently about 2 million Nigerian children are suffering from
Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) and many others have died from malnutrition complications due to poor or improper nutrition. In this piece, JOYCE REMI-BABAYEMI
examines how low budgeting and funding by government is causing malnutrition and killing children in Nigeria.

 

GOOD nutrition is one of the essentials
of life, particularly at the very beginning
of human formation from the womb.
Nutrition experts say that right from
pregnancy, good nutrition is essential for
the formation of the foetus through to the
window period of 1000 days of a child that
is the first two years of a child.
This simply means that every pregnant
woman and children, especially the
under fives must eat balanced diets which
consists of the six essential nutrients of
foods namely carbohydrates, protein, fat,
vitamins, minerals and water and at the
right time.
As Nigeria celebrates the International
Day of Children, IDC, the big question
which should be on the lips of every wellmeaning
Nigerian who cares for the next
generation is: does the government have
interest of its children at heart and is
child nutrition being adequately funded
to provide the basic food nutrients for
children?
More than 2 million Nigerian children
are facing the dearth of good nutrition as
a result of many factors, including low
budgeting and financing by the three tiers
of governments which are the Federal,
State and Local Government, this aside
from other factors like ignorance of the
right type of diets using local available
foods and the culture of breastfeeding
which is the first step in good child
nutrition.
In fact malnutrition situation in Nigeria
has assumed an alarming rate and
recently it was declared an emergency by
the World Health Organization, WHO,
as more children are are suffering from
malnutrition complications like stunting,
wasting and underweight in states in
horn of Nigeria consisting the North-
East, North-West; in the South-East,
South-South and indeed other parts of the
country.
Before now, malnutrition was assumed
alien to Nigeria because it was not
reported but recently with insurgency and
attendant famine in Boko Haram crisis
region of the North East of the country
where many Nigerians especially the
under fives are displaced and worst hit by
malnutrition. The situation is the region
is worst because many children are now
living in Internally Displaced Persons,
IDPs, Camps, away from the comforts of
their homes and exposed to poor feeding
habits and diseases.
Another question is, would Nigeria
celebrate its children who are dying from
malnutrition because government is not
paying enough attention to childhood
feeding?
In a keynote address by the Minister of
Health, Professor Isacc Adewole at the
National Conference on Complementary
Feeding Practices for Children 6- 23

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months, he said ‘’Nigeria has over a decade
experienced poor health and nutrition
indices as 11 million children are affected
with chronic malnutrition due to the 37%
stunting rate in 2013. Making Nigeria
a contributor of 7% global burden of
stunting and over 20% in Africa’’, adding
that poor infant and young child feeding,
IYCF, practices among the main causes of
prevalence of chronic malnutrition.
Also the minister disclosed that in the
2013 National Demographic and Health
Survey, 37% of children between the ages
of 6 to 23 months consumed the minimum
dietary diversity and only 17.5% children
aged 6 to 23 months and 12.5% infants
6-11 months have access to a minimum of
acceptable diet. This has clearly shown that
majority of Nigerian children are not eating
balanced and proper diets. This is subject to
factors like ignorance, culture, illiteracy but
the majorly low funding by the Federal and
State governments and lack of political will
by policy makers..
Senator Lanre Tejuosho, Chairman of
Senate Committee on Health at a High-
Level policy dialogue on ‘’Nigeria’s nutrition
crisis’’ had urged policy makers to marry
political will that gave rise to the National
Food and Nutrition Policy with the actions
needed to achieve the impact.
Tejuosh called for a USD 305 million, about
one billion naira investment in the 2017
budget in nutrition to meet up cost of scaleup
a set of nutrition programmes across the
country. The lawmaker said that N2.3 billion
is required per round to implement the
minimum package of nutrition interventions
with an average of N68 million per state is
needed for each round.
At a media dialogue on child malnutrition
organised by the United Children’s Fund,
UNICEF, in Enugu with the theme: ‘’Investing
in Child malnutrition for the future‘’, in a
presentation by Mr. Ken Ozoemenam, Social
Policy Specialist, UNICEF Enugu on Child-
Friendly Budgeting: Addressing Child
Malnutrition, had disclosed that for Nigeria
to tackle malnutrition and related deaths,
$912 million, approximately 3.2 billion naira
is needed over the period of five years to
address malnutrition in the country which
means that each state needs not less than
N58 million to fed children. Ozoemenam
said that about 2..5 million Nigerian
children have severe acute malnutrition but
only 1.7 million children are under Federal
Government’s intervention.
This he said means that there are still a
lot of unmet children because of low funds,
non- commitment by governments and
policy implementation even for the scare
fund available. Unfortunately Nigeria is
seen to be paying lip service to child diets
and so lagging in funding when compared
with other African countries.
A Global Nutrition Report 2015 shows
estimates of 2014 allocations to nutrition
in government budgets –Country Actual
allocation, nutrition specific interventions
(US$) Actual allocation, nutrition specific, as
% of total government budget Benin 673,000
0.03 Burkina Faso 4,025,000 0.12 Burundi
60,000 0.01 Kenya 8,635,000 0.05 Madagascar
5,339,000 0.37 Mauritania 22227,000 0.10 and
Nigeria FMOH – 2016 Less than 10.dollars
However some states making money
available are Kaduna – N300 million,
Gombe – N17 million, Bauchi – N17 million
and Sokoto – N50 million, the rest are
yet to respond. UNICEF said is that 2.5
million under-five children are severely
malnourished in Nigeria and 2,300 U5
Nigerian children die every day; more
than a half of these deaths are related to
malnutrition causes.
over 11 million U5 Nigerian stunted,
ranking Nigeria 2nd only to India, out
of this 37% of U5 Nigerian children are
stunted, 29% underweight, and 18% wasted
, making Nigeria to account for one-tenth of
the global burden of severe acute under-five
malnutrition, SAM. About 30% of Nigerian
children are underweight (don’t weigh

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enough for their age), more than double
the proportion of underweight Ghanaian
children, UNICEF said.
Malnutrition occurs when people
consistently do not consume or absorb
the right amounts and types of food and
essential nutrients. Main indicator of
malnutrition is stunting, that is when
children are too short for their age. Others
are wasting and underweight.
Stunted children have poor physical
growth and brain development,
preventing them from thriving and
living up to their full potential. Adequate
nutrition during the 1st 1,000 day period
(from the start of a woman’s pregnancy
until her child’s 2nd birthday) can avert
malnutrition, ensuring that children have
the best possible opportunity to grow,
learn, and rise out of poverty. Effects of
malnutrition are often irreversible after
this period, Ozoemenam said.
According to the Nutrition Specialist
Child-friendly budget provides
policymakers, implementers/legislators
with the necessary information to consider
specific needs of children. The percent
of children in Nigeria who are wasted,
or too thin for their height, has steadily
increased, rising from 11 percent in 2003
to 18 percent in 2013.
About 70 percent of children ages 6 to
23 months are not receiving the minimum
acceptable diet. About 1 million Under 5
Nigerian children affected by SAM each
year and these children have severely low
weight for their height. Nearly 4 out of 5
Nigerian children do not meet the WHO
recommendation for RBF during the first
6 months of life.
First 1,000 day period — from the start of
a woman’s pregnancy until her child’s 2nd
birthday — represents a critical window
of opportunity. Adequate nutrition
during this period can avert malnutrition,
ensuring that children have the best
possible opportunity to grow, learn, and
rise out of poverty. Effects of malnutrition
are often irreversible if nutrition is not
optimized during period.
Typical situations of malnutrition can
be found in the North-East, South-East
and South-South regions of the country
and malnutrition could become endemic
in Nigeria if other states and the Federal
Government do not meet up with the $
912 million required to rescue Nigerian
children from the jaws of malnutrition and
infant mortality.
More funding from the Federal
Government of Nigeria in collaboration
with UNICEF and other donors will
increase positive interventions to other
states with alarming numbers of cases of
Community- Based Management of Acute
Malnutrition, CMAM, centres as seen in
Sokoto State and environs.

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