UNICEF: 22% of Children Under Five in South West Suffer Stunted Growth

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By James Sowole

The United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) raised fresh concerns in Monday over the prevalence and effect of malnutrition in the South-West geo-political zone of the country, stating that 22 per cent of children under five years in the zone have stunted growth.

The UNICEF Communication Specialist, Mr. Geoffrey Njoku, gave the figure in an opening remark at a media dialogue organised by the UNICEF for select journalists in some states of the South- West.

He added that it was erroneous to believe that malnutrition is prevalent only in the Northern states.

Quoting a 2013 survey, Njoku said survey had shown that malnutrition is prevalent among children of the rich people of the South West under the age of five, saying malnutrition is a national problem and harped on the need to share responsibilities in investing in simple cost interventions.

Njoku, who narrated his Owerri hometown experience in the South Eastern part, Imo State, revealed that 13% of children born to rich families also suffer malnutrition in the geo-political zone.

A resource person from the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH), Mrs Ogunbumi Omotayo, noted: “Nigeria has the highest number of stunted children under age five in sub-Saharan Africa and second highest in the world with 37% of all children stunted, 18% wasting and 29% underweight.”

Mrs. Ada Ezeogu, the UNICEF Nutrition Specialist, lamented that the Nigeria Nutrition Indices (2013) disclosed that only 17 per cent of Nigerians engage in Exclusive Breast Feeding (EBF), which is far below the 50 per cent international standard requirement.