Malnutrition Responsible for Half of Children’s Death in Nigeria – Health Ministry

By Alex Uangbaoje, Kano

The Federal Ministry of Health on Wednesday said 2300 children die daily from malnutrition and other childhood killer diseases In Nigeria.

Chris Isokpunwu, Head of Nutrition, Federal Ministry of Health, disclosed this at a dialogue with Media Executives in Kano, organised by United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) that 53 per cent of the children die as a result of malnutrition.

Isokpunwu, represented by Tokunbo Farayibi, Principal Nutrition Officer of the ministry, said the statistics makes Nigeria the second worst country in terms of deaths by malnutrition. India is the country with the highest malnutrition statistics.

According to him, the nutrition indices of 2013 showed that the national average of of children that were stunted stood at 37 per cent, with 29 per cent underweight, 18 per cent wasting while only 17 per cent were exclusively breastfed.

He said that the recent zonal nutritional survey of 2015 placed the North-West the highest with stunted children of 54.3 per cent followed by North-East with 42 per cent.

According to him, 29 per cent of children in North Central part of the country were stunted, 12.1 per cent of those from South-East and 19.7 in South-South.

Isokpunwu said that 16.2 percent children from South-West were also malnourished.

He listed key malnutrition problems to include poor feeding practices, energy, protein, iron and vitamin A deficiencies.

“The immediate causes of malnutrition are inadequate food intake, lack of diversity, infectious diseases,” he said, adding that the underlying drivers of malnutrition are food insecurity, inadequate child and maternal care, poor access to health services and unhealthy environment.

According to Isokpunwu, the basic drivers are poverty, population, failure in governance and gender inequality.

Other factors include internally displaced persons, epidemics, cholera, ebola and natural disasters

Also speaking at the workshop, Geoffrey Njoku, UNICEF’s communication specialist, noted that nutrition is central to child survival and then development.

He spoke about a 1000 day window from birth during which the child must be nourished with essential foods for full development.

“The damage is almost irreversible…, a malnourished child will earn 30% less salary (than a nourished child),” Njoku said.

He said children with “stunted growth might never reach full development,” adding that more that a third of all Nigerian children are stunted,” he said.

Njoku said malnutrition is a national problem and contributes to its child mortality.

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