‘Malnutrition Worst in Northern Nigeria’ UNICEF
By: Alex Uangbaoje, Kaduna.
United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has revealed that malnutrition accounts for over 50 per cent of under-five mortality of children and women in Nigeria but more prevalent in the Northern part of the country.
Dr. Florence Oni, a UNICEF Nutrition Specialist made this disclosure while presenting a paper titled “Nutrition Situation in Northern Nigeria with Emphasis on Kaduna State” at a one day interactive meeting with Media Chief Executives on Nutrition co-hosted by Kaduna State Media Corporation (KSMC) and UNICEF.
Represented by Susan Adeyemi, she said the North-west has 53% malnutrition prevalence according to 2014 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS).
She further revealed that millions of children die from preventable causes and that every minute eight children under five years die and two out of the eight are newborn.
She explained that malnutrition leads to stunting in child’s growth and that a stunted child has stunted mental capacity and such child will operate at sub-optimal level-less Intelligence Quotient (IQ).
“A severely wasted child is ten times more likely to die than a well nourished child. It requires a drastic intervention and contributes to the high mortality rates.
”A child from the poorest economic quintile is four times more likely to be malnourished compared to the children of the richest households. So there is need for multi-sectoral approach to address malnutrition with equity.
“Poor maternal and infant feeding practices lead to energy and protein deficiencies. Micronutrient deficiencies: Vitamin A deficiency (VAD), Iron Deficiency Anemia (IDA), Iodine Deficiency Disorder (IDD) and Zinc Deficiency are some of the nutritional problems” according to her presentation.
She however advocated for optimal breastfeeding as part of solution to malnutrition, saying “optimal breastfeeding could save about 800,000 under five child lives every year and broad coverage of breastfeeding and appropriate complementary feeding could prevent about 220,000 deaths among children under-five of age.
”Reduction of malnutrition could decrease child mortality in Nigeria by 50% and the burden of pediatric diseases by 20%. Reducing malnutrition has more impact than any other intervention. We need to focus on high-impact actions.
“Community management of acute and integrated nutrition specific and nutrition sensitive interventions. Agriculture and food security, social safety nets, early child development.
“Maternal mental health, women empowerment including income generating activities, child protection, classroom education, water and sanitation, health and family planning” are some of her recommendations for a way forward.