By Ndidi Chukwu
Over 2,500 children die every day due to malnutrition in Sahelian states of Nigeria, which has the highest prevalence rate with low access to treatment.
This was revealed by Head of Nutrition at the Federal Ministry of Health, Dr. Chris Isokpunwu, at a UNICEF training for journalists in Kano.
He said that delay in implementation of government policies and programmes, poverty and gender inequality are the basic causes of child-malnutrition in Nigeria, thereby resulting in the death of about 2,500 children daily.
Represented by Principal Nutrition Officer in the ministry, Tokunbo Farabiyi, Dr. Isokpunwu listed; Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kano, Nasarawa, Plateau, Taraba, and Yobe as the Sahelian states.
He said the security challenges and displacement of families due to crisis has worsened the situation.
While regretting the poor attitude of government toward malnutrition, he pointed out that before 2014, no budgetary allocation was provided for national nutrition programmes in the country, as only meagre leftovers from reproductive health were used to cater for the menace, in spite of the fact that Nigeria ranks second to India in the world ranking on world malnutrition burden.
He, therefore urged the federal government to ensure an increase in the budgetary allocation for nutrition and child care in Nigeria, as money budgeted for nutrition is often reduced to other health areas.
Dr. Isokpunwu also stressed the need for mothers to re-imbibe the attitude of exclusive breastfeeding, adding that as at 2013, Nigeria recorded an abysmal 17% in exclusive breastfeeding while her sister West African Country, Ghana, had an impressive 63% in exclusive breastfeeding.
He said: “Nutrition issues cut across the entire country. Government must ensure that more allocations must be made to cater for nutrition, with more attention paid to the North-east and North-west, where much of the malnutrition burden lies.”