Over 2.5m Children Suffer Severe Malnutrition in Nigeria, Says UNICEF


Amby Uneze in Owerri

The United Nation’s Children Fund (UNICEF) has revealed that more than 2.5 million children in Nigeria are currently suffering from severe acute malnutrition as this figure calls for serious attention by various authorities and stakeholders to do something in reducing the scourge.

Media practitioners around the country were also enjoined to sustain the campaign against child malnutrition using their columns and medium to achieve this, and to report any progress made in the fight against malnutrition.
The Chief of Communication, UNICEF Abuja, Doune Porter disclosed this in Owerri, Imo state during a recent media dialogue on child malnutrition with the theme ‘Good nutrition – an investment for the future’.

Ms. Porter stated that Community-Based Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) is currently being implemented in 12 states, adding that in 2015, over 400,000 children received CMAM services while 77,000 lives were saved.
She stated that severe acute malnutrition could be prevented in Nigeria by avoiding giving children between 0 and 6 months water during exclusive breast feeding.

According to her, other measures include preparing nutrients rich food for children immediately after exclusive breast feeding, giving 3-4 meals and 1-2 snacks daily to children above 6 months and proper washing of hands and utensils after use to avoid diseases.

In a lecture on Nutrition interventions in Nigeria, a Nutrition Advocacy Specialist, Mr. Zachary Fusheini, said based on available statistics, mothers who engage in exclusive breast feeding and also give water to children between zero to 6 months affect children and cause severe acute malnutrition.
Fusheini stated that, for severe acute malnutrition to be tackled in the country, there must be an immediate action plan.

He stated that the immediate action plan includes, adopting a comprehensive costed multi-sectoral nutrition strategic action plan, with government ensuring adequate funding of the programme among others.
He expressed regret that it takes about N17,000 to treat severe acute malnourished child, adding that intensified campaign is needed to reduce the high rate of acute malnutrition in the country.

The nutrition expert also urged the media to lead the campaign in monitoring government policies and pronouncement on funds released to reduce the rate of malnutrition in the country, and to also ensure that such funds are channeled appropriately and judiciously utilised.

He further stated that efforts have to be made to urge breastfeeding mothers to discontinue completely from giving their new born babies water alongside breast milk, adding that breast milk alone contains every nutrient a child requires to grow adequately.