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UNICEF: Investing in Child Nutrition Must Be A Priority

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Nigeria should prioritise funding nutrition for children to curb the abysmal rate of malnourished children in the country.

Painting the pathetic picture of the state of affairs, UNICEF said Nigeria ranks number one in Africa with the highest number of malnourished children and number two globally.

The UNICEF Nutrition Officer, Nkeiru Enwelum, disclosed this during her presentation at the opening of a two-day media dialogue in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, adding that out of the 35 million under-five children in Nigeria, 12 million are stunted, three million children are wasted and 23.5 million children are anaemic.

UNICEF, therefore, urged the government to adopt a multi-sectoral approach to tackle the menace of malnutrition and improve the overall of children in the country.

In her presentation titled,‘The nutrition situation in Nigeria: An overview of malnutrition and its impact on children’, Enwelum said, “There are funding gaps and the government needs to put its own money into dealing with the issue of child nutrition in the country.

“We keep calling for more investment, more attention and a multi-sectoral approach as nutrition is not the only concern of the health sector.”

Enwelum said about one million people suffer from acute food insecurity and about 17.7 million people are hungry in Nigeria.

The Nutritionist noted that the number of people suffering from hunger and food insecurity would likely increase to 25 million in the coming years if nothing is done.

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She further disclosed that Lagos, Kano, Katsina and Borno top the country’s food insecurity list.

“In terms of hunger and food insecurity, 17.7 million people are hungry in the country and that number can rise to 25 million if nothing is done. Out of this number, one million people are suffering from acute food insecurity.

“These people are undertaking negative coping mechanisms to be able to get food. You find most of them in the northeast where conflict and insecurity exist.”

Enwelum stressed that adequate funding was needed to carry out sensitisation and advocacy campaigns in remote areas, as well as provide succour for children facing severe malnutrition in the country.

“Despite Lagos, Kano, Borno, and Katsina ranking high in the food insecurity ladder, malnutrition is of widespread and affects people living in other parts of the country,” she said.

The media dialogue, themed ‘Investing in child malnutrition for the future’ aims to identify gaps in the funding and addressing of child malnutrition and how to close the gaps across the country.

During the dialogue, UNICEF communication specialist, Dr. Geoffrey Njoku, stated the number of malnourished children is high but the resources to tackle malnutrition are low

Dr. Njoku emphasised that the purpose of the dialogue is to equip the media with adequate knowledge on malnutrition and how they can advocate for more investment to eradicate the menace, “The government must allocate more resources for child malnutrition.”