The threat of insurgency in the northeast has become a major cause to the rise of child malnutrition in Borno and Yobe states, thereby putting the lives of children on death sentence, depriving them of actualizing their potentials towards contributing to the social and economic development of the country.
Malnutrition is a condition that occurs when people consistently do not consume or absorb the right amount and types of food and essential nutrients. Globally, it contributes to nearly half of all child deaths, that is more than 3 million children each year.
The main indicator of childhood malnutrition is stunting, a situation whereby children are too short for their age. Stunted children have poor physical growth and brain development, preventing them from thriving and living up to their full potential. With over 11 million stunted children, Nigeria is facing a crisis of malnutrition and ranks second behind India among all countries with the highest number of stunted children.
UNICEF fact sheet report for Nigeria malnutrition revealed that In Nigeria, 37 per cent of children, or 6 million children, are stunted, chronically malnourished or low height for age, more than half of them severely. In addition, 18 per cent of children suffer from wasting, acutely malnourished or low weight for height, half of them severely. Twenty-nine per cent of children are underweight both, acutely and chronically malnourished or low weight for age, almost half of them severely.
Saving children from Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) is a responsibility for everyone- stakeholders and the Nigerian government to invest and put an end to malnutrition in the country.
Finding a solution to stop child malnutrition situation in the Northeast, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture organized a media dialogue, sponsored by the Department for International Development (DFID), theme ‘Investing in Child Malnutrition for the future’.
The Insurgency has allowed malnutrition to continue flourishing in three northeast emergency states, Borno State, Yobe State and Maiduguri State. A Nutrition Consultant, Dr. Davis Omotola, in his reaction noted that “Malnutrition is clustered in the northern part of Nigeria unfortunately, the northern part of the country is supposed to be the food basket of this nation, and so why are people chronically malnourished?
In the three northeast state under malnutrition emergency, 1 in 6 under 5 children suffers from Severe Acute Malnutrition(SAM) but, in 9 in northern states including the north east and north west 1 in 7 suffers from SAM, while 1.71 suffer from SAM.
Omotola, explained that 42 per cent Children are stunted in the northeast; 8.7per cent children wasting while 25.5 per cent children are underweight, this potent danger in the northeast just as the not too young to run has been passed. He disclosed that only 20 per cent of children in the rest of the country are stunted.
“The prevalence of stunting in the northeast is a life sentence this is link as a result of where they were born, who are their parent and their government, what is the future of such children.
Omotola said the displacement caused by insurgency in the northeast is a main driver to malnutrition, “for examples farmers could no longer go to their farms due to insecurity in the region. Some of the farmers have to find miner job in the city are unable to return back to their farms because the land is taken by insurgence and they can be kidnap. This causes a serious adverse effect on malnutrition in children.
The nutrition expert wants government to increase their investment to stop children malnutrition. “For instance, nearly half of the funds released for 2017 were released in 2018. In 2016, $2,75million was committed only $1.2 million was released.
In 2017, a total of $5.5million was committed, only $3.97 million was released. This year, $3million was committed and only $0.02million has been released so far. He added that for economic and social change, investing in nutrition will save 33 per cent of children from poverty in adulthood.
Correspondingly, UNICEF Nutrition Officer, Dr. Martin Jakson, said UNICEF in collaboration with the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (UK-DFID) in tackling the menace in Borno and Yobe States, through the integrated basic nutrition response to humanitarian crises in it intervention commenced on July 2017 currently ongoing.
According to him, no fewer than 1,329,802 children were given Vitamin ‘A’ supplementation in the two states, while 195,000 pregnant women were given Iron Fersolate to prevent anaemia, and 38,700 children with severe acute malnutrition were been admitted, while 32,000 others were given N5, 000 each monthly each as incentives for exclusive breastfeeding and complimentary feeding.
He said, this intervention contributes toward the reduction of morbidity and mortality related to under nutrition among boys and girls under five years and pregnant and lactating women in Borno and Yobe.
Jakson, said the output of intervention, has improved nutritional status of children under 5 years and pregnant lactating women through prevention, detection and treatment of undermutrition, adding that DFID has procured a bit more than 200,000 carton of RUTF enough to cover 240,000 children with severe acute malnutrition.
He however, called on the state government in Borno and Yobe states to provide more resources being that government remains on the front seat, supported by UNICEF