Malnutrition is the unspeakable tragedy amongst children around the world especially in Africa and other developing economies. Apart from creating conditions of stunted growth in children, especially those under the ages of five, it is the lethal on economies of nations, as it cripples, kills and claiming millions of lives. Imagining a mother holding or carrying a malnourished child because the world has not cared to banish hunger particularly among the weak and vulnerable, i.e. women and children, in spite of the growing wealth being generated everyday worldwide.
It is against this backdrop that the new report released by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) showing that about 1.7 million Nigerian children are severely malnourished and in dire need of urgent intervention must be taken seriously. The UNICEF Country Representative in Nigeria, Jean Gough who broke the news said: “There are approximately 1.7 million acutely malnourished children under five in Nigeria accounting for a tenth of the global figure. Nearly a thousand Nigerian children die of malnutrition related causes every day – a total of 361,000 each year.”
Also the report stated that, 53 per cent of child mortalities in Nigeria were traceable to malnutrition. Sadly, however, even though malnutrition is the major cause for a third of child mortality in the world, yet it has not received sufficient attention and publicity as to attract global investment that are crucial in tackling the growing upsurge in the society.
We recall that as far back as 2008, the report of the Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) had indicated that one out of every three children under the age of five in our country is stunted and suffering from chronic malnutrition. Thus, this latest statistics ranking the country as one of the countries with the highest number of malnourished children in the world came as no surprise to all and sundry. Sometimes ago, the nutrition society of Nigeria NSN, rolled out a damning figure, making the country one of the worst in the world. And the country is being placed within the global context, the malnourished children are said to be more and causing the deaths of millions of children, meaning it is one of the major killer disease of children. What this portend therefore is that if these worrisome indexes are not checked, an additional 2.4 million and above Nigerian children will be malnourished by the year 2020
The more malnourished children we have, the less hopeful our future would be, and given the measure of resources the country is blessed with, makes the situation even more depressing and unacceptable, the nation can do better to redress the growing anomalies. Therefore, it will be pleasant if we could rid Nigeria and the world of the dreaded malnutrition plague so as to give hope to the vulnerable millions especially children the chance to leave fulfilled lives.
But conquering malnutrition would be a hard task with the current level of poverty and hunger around the world, especially in Africa. The poor cannot afford a balanced diet or any diet at all that will keep the body and soul in harmony. The first task therefore is to fight poverty and hunger as well as improving the incomes of individuals and families. Aside this, government at all levels and other advocacy groupings should as a matter of urgency embark on an aggressive enlightenment programmes on how to get and sustain a balanced diet.
But above all, in the onerous fight against malnutrition, there must be a national food policy in which nutrition particularly has special budgetary allocations as suggested by the NSN.
Though, good nutrition or healthy diet are not cheap, but the cost to cater for citizens who are malnourished is higher, especially the huge losses in productivity.
Therefore it is far cheaper to prevent malnutrition than treating it. Our world is so rich to end hunger and malnutrition, collectively and collaboratively, the battle can be won.