Child Nutritional Crisis malnourished
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Nigeria may lose 876,000 Children to Malnutrition in 2023 — Stakeholders

The government at a levels, wealthy individuals and organisations in the private sector have been tasked by stakeholders in the Health and Nutrition sector on critical intervention to prevent no fewer than 876,000 children from dying from Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) next year.

The stakeholders spoke as the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) , said that 100 children die every hour in Nigeria with malnutrition as underlying factor. This means 2,400 deaths a day and 876,000 deaths a year. It also means that no fewer than 801,600 children died between January 1 and November 30, 2023.

This makes malnutrition a silent killer that kills more than any disease, insurgency and warfare. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), malaria killed 602,000 people in Nigeria in 2021 while cancer claims 72,000 lives annually.

According to the stakeholders, who spoke at a National Council on Nutrition, (NCN), roundtable in Lagos, “Malnutrition is a direct or underlying cause of 45 percent of all deaths of under-five children. Nigeria has the second highest burden of stunted children in the world and the highest in Africa, with a national prevalence rate of 33.3 percent of children under five. 11.6 per cent of Nigerian children aged 6-59 months are wasted (thin for their height), 25.3 per cent are underweight (thin for their age) and 1.5 per cent are overweight (heavy for their height).

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“The prevalence of wasting in children below five years of age is 11.6 percent; translating into over 4.4 million wasted children under-five. An estimated two million children in Nigeria suffer from severe acute malnutrition but only two out of every 10 children affected are currently reached with treatment.

“Left untreated, children with severe acute malnutrition are nearly 12 times likely to die than a healthy child because one in 10 children in Nigeria die before their fifth birthday and malnutrition contributes to nearly half of these deaths.”

The stakeholders include Nemat Hajeebhoy of UNICEF Nigeria; Professor Kola Anigo, chairman, Technical Advisory Group, National Council on Nutrition, (NCN); Mr. Jamil Abdullahi of the Ministry of Budget and Planning; and Mr Ekene Ifedilichukwu, chairman Steering Committee of the Civil Society-Scaling Up Nutrition in Nigeria (CS-SUNN).

Others are Dr R.O. Oyeleke of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development; Mrs Adesanmi Abimbola, senior special assistant to the President on Nutrition, Office of the Vice President; the Partnership for Improving Nigeria Nutrition System (PINNS) ; and Accelerating Nutrition Results in Nigeria, (ANRIN).