The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says 100 children under the age of five die of malnutrition in Nigeria every hour.
Nemat Hajeebhoy, UNICEF’s chief nutrition officer, said this on Thursday in Abuja at a meeting organised by the National Council on Nutrition (NCN).
Hajeebhoy said if urgent action is not taken, another 15 million children are at risk of “wasting” – a term used to describe children who get emaciated as a result of malnutrition.
“Every hour in Nigeria, almost a hundred children under the age of five die. So by the time we are done with this meeting, 300 children would have died in this country,” the nutrition officer said.
“If a child is malnourished, they are 12 times more likely to die. We know that today without urgent action, there would have been this year and next year close to 15 million children who will suffer from what we call wasting (thin children).
“This is an indicator that there is a crisis in the country and I would like to call it a nutrition emergency. There is a nutrition emergency in the country today. Nigeria is ranked number one in Africa and second in the world in the total of children malnourished.
“We have some good news, we have seen stunting come down over the years but that rate of decline is very slow. Moreover, this slow rate of decline is costing our economy 15 percent GDP loss to Nigeria.”
Also speaking, Abimbola Adesanmi, the senior special assistant to the president on nutrition, office of the vice-president, said the federal government has formulated policies to end hunger in the country.
“The NCN as the highest decision-making body for Nutrition in the country, in line with SDG 2 goal of ending hunger and all forms of malnutrition, have ensured that national indicators are aligned with global targets through national policies, strategies, and guidelines,” Adesanmi said.
“On the policy front, the National multi-sectoral plan of action for food and nutrition in Nigeria (2019-2023), National Policy on Food and Nutrition in Nigeria 2016-2025, and Agricultural Promotion Policy 2016-2020 among others have been developed by the government with technical and financial support from development partners and stakeholders in line with national development plans and the attainment of the SDGs.”
On his part, Rasaq Oyeleke, head of nutrition in the ministry of agriculture, said Nigeria would only be able to have a healthy population if the country is able to provide good nutrients.