‘Nigeria needs N200b to address nutritional issues for next five years’
Nigeria is in dire need of about N200 billion to address the nutritional needs of the country, while 835,500 children die annually from Malnutrition induced ailment in Nigeria.
Speaking during a media dialogue on child malnutrition with the theme “spend more money on nutrition” #stop child malnutrition in Nigeria organised by the United Nation Children Fund (UNICEF), Head of Nutrition at the Federal Ministry of Health, Dr. Chris Isokpunwu, said the country needs N200 billion ($918) for the next five years to address the nutritional deficiency in the country.
He put under five mortality rates in Nigeria to 127 per 1000 live births.
“Every year 839,500 children die. That comes to 2,300 from all causes and there are many causes of under-five mortality. The major ones are malaria, pneumonia, diarrhea and other infections relating to new born.”
To reverse the situation he said current investment in nutrition must be improved upon; stressing that there is still a huge gap that needed to be addressed urgently.
He however said government has put in place adequate plans to deal with the situation, which he said is contained in the country’s strategic plan on nutrition that will soon be launched.
The strategic plan he however said “will require about 918 million dollars over a period of five years for us to achieve the set target.”
The target according to him “include reducing stunting by 40 per cent, ensuring that there is no change in overweight or obesity, increasing breastfeeding rate to about 50 per cent and reducing anaemia in women.”
Malnutrition in women, Ministry of Health nutritionist explained “has impact on the children. A malnourished woman is more likely to give birth to a malnourished child. Again, the nutritional level of a woman is a reflection of the nutritional status of the family.”
He further stressed, “There is a huge gap because when you look at what donors are bringing in and government is spending, the gap is huge. That is why we need to mobilise resources.
“The resource mobilisation will involve increasing public sector funding. There is need for the sub national levels that is the states and local governments to prioritise and invest in nutrition.
“Involving public sector does not mean them bringing in money, but let them have sensitive nutrition considerations in their programmes.
“They can sensitise the people in positive living, water and sanitation and hygiene, key household practices that promote good nutrition, enlightening people to take advantage of government programmes, take advantage of immunisation services and encourage women to attend antenatal care services.
Speaking on the nutritional situation in Nigeria and its impact on children, the Chief Nutritionist of the UNICEF, Mr. Arjan de Wagt said that most of the children die of malnutrition within their first 1000 days on earth, describing the period as “window period.”
Wagt said that the first 1000 days of a child are so important that they determine not only the child’s growth but also his entire health status throughout the life, up to old age.
“Whenever we talk about malnutrition, the only thing that comes to the mind is that it is for the poor uneducated rural people who have less to eat. But malnutrition also includes eating wrong food or unbalanced diet. It is about lack of knowledge of the food we eat and not lack of food.”
Wagt said that the chief cause of malnutrition is lack of exclusive breast-feeding of the child in the first six months of his birth, insisting that breast milk is made strictly for the babies and they must not be denied of it.