James Emejo in Abuja
Despite several interventions by the government to improve nutrition and healthcare delivery in the country, acute malnutrition remained at alert levels of 5-9.9 percent since 2014 till date, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) has stated.
It said the prevalence of stunting which stood at 32.0 percent (95 percent CI: 30.7-33.4) remained the largest burden of malnutrition with stagnated rates of above 30 percent since 2014, with many states in the Northwest and Northeast recording prevalence above 40 percent- the World Health Organisation (WHO) critical levels.
Stunting refers to a long term nutritional problem in the country and at similar levels to that of Sub-Saharan region (37 percent) with serious and irreversible consequences, the NBS added.
The submissions were contained in the 2018 National Nutrition and Health Survey (NNHS) which was released by the statistical agency yesterday.
NNHS, which is conducted annually by the NBS in collaboration with the National Population Commission (NPC) and the Federal Ministry of Health, provides up-to-date information on the situation of nutrition and health as well as measures and key indicators that support the country to monitor progress of the Saving One Million Lives (SOML) Programme for Result (PforR) initiative and other national and international goals.
The household survey adopts the Standardised Monitoring and Assessment of Relief and Transition (SMART) methodology.
According to the NBS, the outcome of the latest survey “sound a warning to all stakeholders that efforts to invest on nutrition sensitive to geographic location, gender and age of target population should be maintained to reduce acute and chronic malnutrition levels to below five percent and 20 percent respectively as envisaged in the national and international goals.
It said: “Improving nutrition in the first 1,000 days window and in adolescent girls is critical to improving the nutrition status of the entire population of Nigeria.”
Among other things, it stated that although breastfeeding is a widespread practice among the Nigerian population with nearly all the assessed children 0 to 23 months ever breastfed (97.1 percent), the other aspects of breastfeeding and young child feeding indicators are still poor and sub-optimal.
“More than 80 percent new-born children do not timely receive milk and colostrum within one hour of birth; only 27 percent of 0 to 5 months old infants are breastfed exclusively, and so majority are introduced to complementary foods before the age of six months earlier than the WHO/UNICEF’s recommendation that mothers exclusively breastfeed their children, predisposing these children to unhygienic feeding conditions and vulnerability to illnesses.
“Nearly 60 percent of the children (6 to 24 months) assessed are not fed to the recommended minimum meal frequency for their age and breast feeding status; 65 percent do not meet the minimum dietary diversity and only 17 percent children aged 6 to 23 months receive the minimum acceptable diet while less than 50 percent are fed on iron-containing foods.
“There are significant variations in rates of breast-feeding and complementary feeding indicators, and some states especially in Southwest, Northwest and North-east regions would require more effort to promote optimum breastfeeding benefits.”
Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, however, urged policy makers and programme managers to “focus on the outcome of this report and ensure that efforts should be made towards addressing all areas of concern in a concerted and coordinated manner.
“It is my hope that all stakeholders would play active roles in closing the gaps in the provision of high-quality health services to the Nigerian populace,” he said.