FG: 53% of Under-five Children Die of Malnutrition Annually

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  • To launch revised national policy on food and Nutrition tuesday
  • WHO confirms third polio case

Ndubuisi Francis and Paul Obiin Abuja

The federal government monday painted a rather unflattering picture of the state of nutrition in the country, saying about 53 percent of Nigerian children under the age of five die of malnutrition annually.

The disclosure came as the government said it would launch the ‘Revised National Policy on Food and Nutrition’ in Abuja today.

Briefing journalists on the maiden edition of Nutrition Week celebration organised by the Ministry of Budget and National Planning, the Minister, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, said Nigeria ranks first in Africa and third globally with high burden of malnutrition.

Represented at the briefing by the Minister of State for Ministry of Budget and National Planning, Hajia Zainab Ahmed, Udoma said of the 53 per cent of children who die annually due to malnutrition, 1,200 die every day in the country.

According to the minister, the North-east and North-west geo-political zones rank top among the six zones of the country in the malnutrition index.

Quoting the 2013 NDHS report, the minister added that stunting is still as high as 37 per cent, wasting 29 per cent and underweight 18 per cent.

The menace, which he blamed on several factors, include poor infant and young child feeding practices, policy implementation, poor access to healthcare, water and sanitation and high level of poverty.

Although the nutrition-sensitive interventions remain crucial to devising solutions, the minister harped on the necessity of all stakeholders to achieve food and nutrition security to address the major causes of malnutrition in the country.

Udoma, however, assured Nigerians that the revised National Policy on Food and Nutrition which would be launched today by the First Lady would address the problem of malnutrition, increase exclusive breastfeeding, increase the percentage of children who receive complementary feeding as well as reduce stunting rate among under-five children from 37 per cent in 2013 to 18 per cent in 2016, among other things.

While acknowledging the ministry’s collaboration with the Nutrition
Society of Nigeria in curbing the menace of food and nutrition insecurity, he solicited the contribution of all stakeholders to ensure optimal nutritional status for all Nigerians.
The Minis of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, in his remarks, said the nutrition week was initiated to create awareness on the danger of malnutrition, especially in the North-eastern part of the country due to the activities of Boko Haram terrorists in the region.

Mohammed said 26,000 children are malnourished in the North-east, a situation he described as a crisis of high magnitude, therefore calling for collaborative effort to stem the crisis.
‘‘The rate of malnutrition in the North-east region is a crisis of high magnitude.
The government has realised this and has decided to create this awareness.

“Every hour, five children die of malnutrition and 26,000 are malnourished in the North-east region. It must be seen in the North-east region for what it is. However, the truth is that malnutrition rate is higher in the North-western part of the country. It is the activities of Boko Haram insurgents that made it look as if it is more in the North-east,’’ he minister said.
On the new free school feeding programme, the minister said the programme had been kicked off in some states and was expected to go round the country.

To ensure the sustenance of the programme, Mohammed disclosed that the government was planning to budget another N500 billion for social security in the 2017 budget.

Meanwhile the federal government and the World Health Organisation (WHO) monday confirmed another case of polio, bringing the total number of new cases to three after nearly two years Nigeria did not witness the outbreak of the Wild Polio Virus.

The third case of the virus, according to the officials, involved a crippled toddler found in an area newly liberated from Boko Haram insurgents.

THISDAY checks revealed that the case is from an IDP Camp in Monguno, Borno State, where the Nigerian military recently took over after intense fighting with the Boko Haram sects.
It was also reported that the new case was confirmed after thorough laboratory test by the United States Centre for Disease Control international laboratory.

Confirming the case to THISDAY, the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, said: “Yes a third case in Monguno Ward in Monguno Local Government Area is two-year-old boy with no vaccination history.

“Monguno houses one of the largest IDP camps. Our current outbreak response will cover this. We shall have no cause to take any additional measure,” Adewole told THISDAY.
Health officials had earlier warned of more polio outbreak after two cases were discovered last month among refugees from areas recently won back by Nigerian military.

Officials had earlier argued that given the precarious nature of Nigeria’s war on polio particularly in the North-east where Boko Haram insurgency thrives, the quest to end polio cannot be won until the country overcomes the insurgency by extremists who are violently opposed to western medicine, specifically, immunisation of children.

WHO said the virus has been circulating undetected for five years in Borno State where Boko Haram began its Islamic uprising in 2009, thereby preventing vaccinators from reaching children with vaccines.

Since the last two cases, WHO, UNICEF, Federal Ministry of Health, National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), HERFON have already formed part of a new emergency advocacy vaccination drive in the