Malnutrition kills 1, 150 children daily in Nigeria--Health ministry
By Mohammad Ibrahim
Nigeria’s Ministry of Health, Head of Nutrition Division Chris Isokpunwu, said over 1,150 children lose their lives to malnutrition across Nigeria daily.
The figure is equal to the total number of child deaths in the country from other child killer diseases including measles and malaria. According to him, with the outrageous deaths, this makes Nigeria world’s second biggest contributor to under-five’s death, with India occupying the first position.
“Child malnutrition is a very serious issue in Nigeria. “Almost 2,300 children die daily in Nigeria, half of which is as a result of malnutrition; it contributes about 53% to total number of under-five’s death in the country," he said.
He was represented by a Principal Nutrition Officer at the ministry,Tokunbo Farayibi at a 3-day media dialogue on child malnutrition hosted by the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, recently.
The Head of Nutrition attributed lack of awareness as one of the key contributing factors for malnutrition in the african largest populated nation . The expert urged media to help sensitize general public on the benefits of balanced diet.
“Whereas the rate of breastfeeding in Nigeria is commendably 78%, it is surprising that 41% of mothers do breastfeeding alongside feeding their babies with water, which is wrong for babies under 6 months, since the breast milk contains all the needed nutrients including water,” said Isokpunwu.
“And looking at the budget of the Ministry of Health, in 2015, when the budget line for nutrition was created, only N40 million was allocated to nutrition, which is considerably low – compared to billions allocated to other programs like reproductive health," he said.
UNICEF Nigeria’s communication specialist was recently quoted in the media lamenting on the number of children dying from malnutrition on daily basis in the country. He described such deaths as bad and even more so that it is hidden; nobody wants to talk about it.
“We believe that journalists can help set the agenda for action against child malnutrition, by creating awareness among both citizens and leaders; that something is wrong somewhere and something must be done to avert a catastrophe,” said Njoku Chido Onumah, coordinator of the African Centre for Media and Information Literacy, AFRICMIL, who was one of the facilitators of the UNICEF media dialogue.
He said malnutrition challenge had a lot to do with communication and lack of awareness for which the media can play ”an extremely important role” in arresting it. “The situation is such that whereas the challenge has to do with poverty and lack of food, even in places where people have the right kind of food, they don’t know that they need to stay healthy,” he said
Doctors without borders in a statement released recently said its medical team discovered a health crisis, referring 16 severely malnourished children at immediate risk of death to the MSF in-patient therapeutic feeding center in Maiduguri.
The statement added that rapid nutritional screening of more than 800 children found that 19 percent were suffering from severe acute malnutrition—the deadliest form of malnutrition.