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Food insecurity, malnutrition spread in 26 states as Lagos, Borno, Katsina, Kano top chart: Survey

*Nutrition experts at a recent forum urge the three arms of government and other stakeholders to invest more in nutrition as interventions and domestic funding, as Nigeria currently ranks ‘first in Africa and second globally’ with estimated three million malnourished children in the country

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

The Cadre Harmonisé report, a Government-led and  UN-supported food and nutrition analysis has indicated that 26 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) with a total of 17.6 million Nigerian consumers are currently facing food insecurity due to the emergency situation of food and nutrition insecurity in the country.

This development arose as an adjunct to the increasing number of child malnutrition in Nigeria.

A case of malnutrition in Kano State     Photo: UNICEF 

The report has shown that food insecurity is now widespread nationwide as Lagos, Borno, Katsina, Kaduna, Jigawa, and Kano states are leading the highest number of people experiencing food and nutrition insecurity in the West African country.

Nkeiru Enwelum, Nutrition Officer of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) while speaking in Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital, during a two-day Media Dialogue on Child Malnutrition with a Focus on Nutrition Financing, stressed the report showed that between March and May 2023, the five top food and nutrition insecure states, include Lagos with 1,596,099; Borno, 1,553,499; Katsina, 1,314,123; Kaduna, 1,222,929; Jigawa, 1,063,633; and Kano, 1,006,542 respectively.

Enwelum urged stakeholders for more investment in nutrition, particularly as Nigeria plans to come up with its next budget.

The Nutrition Officer also asked the three levels of government to design interventions and domestic funding for nutrition across the country.

Lamenting that the report reflected about three million children are malnourished in Nigeria, she explained that quick interventions, such as the release of budgeted funds for nutrition would not only impact child survival but will improve the overall socio-economic contributions to society. “There are 35 million children under the age of five in Nigeria, 12 million of them are stunted, and 3 million are wasted.

Nigeria is currently ranked first in Africa and second globally in terms of the number of children who are malnourished.”

According to Enwelum, the Government must commit more money to health, and ensure that there is more health for the money committed through accountability and transparency mechanisms in the economy.

Nigeria off-track in achieving Sustainable Development Goal 2

The UNICEF Nutrition Officer, however, regretted that Nigeria was off-track to achieving Sustainable Development Goal 2 (SDG 2) by 2030, which is to achieve zero hunger.

The current trends as well have indicated that Nigeria may likely achieve its target for exclusive breastfeeding.

She stated: “The first 1,000 days of life include the nine months of pregnancy and the first two years of a child’s life. Exclusive breastfeeding is very important during this period.

“Also, after at least six months of exclusive breastfeeding, a diverse diet is important.

“Data shows that only one in five infants breastfeed early, 23 percent); only one in three infants breastfeed exclusively, 34 percent; only one in three children 6 to 23 months receive a diverse diet, 31 percent.”

Enwelum further explained: “The first 1,000 days of life is very important to the overall development of any child, as 50 percent of the brain capacity is formed at birth, and 75 percent of the brain capacity is developed within the first two years of life.

“Hence, special attention needs to be given to the first 1,000 days of life as any deficiency in nutrients that affects brain formation cannot be reversed after this period.

Nutrition problem affecting millions of Nigerian children

It also affects the productivity of the child when they become adults.”

Speaking earlier at the forum, Dr. Geoffrey Njoku, Communication Specialist, urged increased budgetary allocation to nutrition, and the timely release of the funds.

“We have a nutrition problem in Nigeria, and it is particularly bad for children.

Although UNICEF and other partners are supporting Nigeria to combat malnutrition, the government is not putting enough money into ending the country’s nutrition problems.

“The government needs to put its own money into dealing with malnutrition.”

In her welcome address, Najaatu Hassan, Head of the Child Rights Information Department of the Federal Ministry of Information and National Orientation, represented by Mr. Temitoye Falayi, acknowledged the UNICEF and the Nigeria government had achieved some level of success in the nutrition space, though there is still room for more achievements.

Hassan said: “We want the Federal Government to commit more funds to nutrition for children and their future.

“We want to make sure that malnutrition is a thing of the past so that we can focus on other areas of children’s survival.”

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