For Nigeria to see the end of child malnutrition in the shortest possible time and save lives of 2.5m children annually, government would have to source and provide the total sum of N912m in the next five years to tackle the menace.
This fact was revealed at the weekend in Enugu by the Head of Nutrition Department, Federal Ministry of Health, Dr Chris Osa Isokpunwu while taking some Media Editors through a two-day dialogue on “Leveraging Resources for Child Malnutrition in Nigeria” conveyed by United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF), Nigeria.
Although Isokpunwu reiterated the need for government to comit itself to solving the problems of malnutrition in the country, he however lamented that for three years running, budget lines for Nutrition by government has be abysmal.
“For instance, in 2014, when budget line for child Nutrition was created for the first time in Nigeria, N30m was budgeted but nothing was released, in 2015 nothing was budgeted for child Nutrition, In 2016, N2.4m was appropriately budgeted for scaling up child Nutrition in the country but the little amount was not released and no one is sure what 207 would look like”, lamented Isokpunwu.
Meanwhile, at a recent meeting of Finance Ministers with World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Washington DC, Nigeria’s Kemi Adeosun and her Guatemalan counterpart Julio Hector Estrada joined the President of the World Bank Group Jim Yong Kim and singer Yvonne Chaka Chaka to shine a spotlight on the importance of nutrition in unlocking human capital and economic prosperity.
During that meeting, both Ministers emphasised the economic importance of investing in nutrition, with Adeosun saying, “It’s not about narrative, it’s about action”.
World Bank Group President, Jim Yong Kim had said, “Malnutrition costs the global economy $3.5 trillion per year and there are no excuses for failing to invest in nutrition”.
He was quoted to have commited the Bank saying, “we’re going to do everything we can to make neglect hurt for the powerful”.
According to Isokpunwu, “Nearly one million Nigerian children below five years of age die yearly due to malnutrition making the country one of the highest contributors to deaths of children below five in the world; even half of those who survive the trauma of malnutrition often become stunted for life”, he lamented.
The reality of budgeting for child nutrition said Nutrition Specialist, Ngozi Onuora of UNICEF, is not only in the value of money alloted but also in ensuring the purpose for which the allocation was made, meets the need of the last child in every community in the country.
Onuora in her presentation titled: ” Malnutrition, Child Nutrition Situation in South-East and South-South Zones of Nigeria”, noted, “every single day, Nigeria loses about 2,300 under-five-year-olds and 145 women of childbearing age as a result of malnutrition making it the second largest contributor to deaths from malnutrition in the world after India”.
Painting the gory nature of how bad the situation is, Onuora said, “In most partof the South East and South-South, if 100 children who are malnourished have diarrhoea, 60% of their deaths would be as a result of their poor nutritional status”..
Said Onuorah, “In Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River and Benue States, there is every high tendency to hae low birth weight children which equals growth failure leading to high waste and poor finishing in life.
“But simple interventions can however save the lives of these children, only government has to be committed”, she advised.
It is so sad that many of the State governments are no longer implementing Maternal, Newborn and Child Health week (MNCHW) hence poor commitment to supporting mothers in practicing good nutriton at household levels.
Statistics provided at the Media Dialogue by nutrition experts showed that malnutrition, though a national problem, is much worse in the North. The statistics showed that the total number of children affected by malnutrition in the South-East in 2016 was 34,889 while 6,700 deaths were recorded. In the South-South, 86,304 children were affected, out of which 16,700 died, while the South-West had 84,417 cases and 16,300 deaths; North-West 1,594,462 cases and 308,000 deaths; North-Central 43,635 cases with 8,400 deaths; and North-East 695,998 cases and 134,000 deaths.
Nigeria loses over $1.5 billion in GDP annually to vitamin and mineral deficiencies, according to the World Bank
From the Nigeria Demographic Health Survey 2013, 37% of under five children are stunted, wasting rate stands at 18% while 29% are underweight. About 23% of new-borns in Nigeria do not receive breast milk within the first hour of birth whist the Exclusive breastfeeding rate stands at 17%.
The evidence is abundantly clear that the ties between nutrition and economic prosperity run deep, and the world (Nigeria inclusive) cannot afford to wait to increase investments in this area. Investing in nutrition yields permanent and inalienable benefits, with at least a $10 return on investment for every dollar spent.
At the Washington meeting, Jim Yong Kim highlighted the commitment made by Rwandan President Paul Kagame to reduce stunting in Rwanda from 38% to 0% over the next 3 to 4 years.
Countries including Peru and Senegal were also praised for the progress they have made in tackling malnutrition. Other governments were called on to play their part and set the same level of commitment
The Civil Society- Scaling up Nutrition in Nigeria (CS-SUNN) Project Director, Mrs.Beatrice Eluaka said Government has the bulk of the role if malnutrition is to be addressed. She urged Government to:
Develop and implement Strategic Plan of Action for the National Food and Nutrition Policy (NFNP-2016-2025)
Fully implement the National Strategic Plan of Action on Nutrition (NSPAN, 2014 -2019) at the National and all states in Nigeria.
Create Specific nutrition budget lines in all relevant MDA across the federation
Ensure timely release of allocated funds to nutrition in the 2017 budget
Uphold her commitment at the Nutrition for Growth Summit.