Lara Adejoro

Just imagine that almost the whole population of 1,817,200 in Alimosho Local Government Area of Lagos were children. Then, imagine that they all had severe, irreversible physical and cognitive damage caused by chronic malnutrition. Then, this is what is happening to the children in the South Western part of Nigeria.

In other words, for the South West which has the stunting rate of 19.4 per cent, an estimated number of under 5 children that are stunted is 1.5million.

According to UNICEF, 43.6 per cent of the estimated 40 million Nigerian children under the age of 5 have their bodies and minds limited by stunting.

This was made known at a two-day Media dialogue on child nutrition held in Ibadan on February 27-28, 2018, with the theme: Overcoming stunting in South West Nigeria organized by the Ogun state Ministry of Information and Strategy in collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

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Speaking on Child Nutrition in South West Nigeria; Stunting- its impact on children and the role of UNICEF, Mrs Ada Ezeogu, UNICEF’s Nutrition Specialist said, childhood stunting is one of the most significant barriers to human development. “Stunting is a failure to achieve one’s own genetic potential for height. It is a manifestation of the severe, irreversible physical and cognitive damage caused by chronic malnutrition early Ina child’s life often beginning before birth.”

She said, “an estimated 20 per cent of stunting begins in the womb-with a mother who herself is malnourished and is not getting enough of the nutrition she needs to support her baby’s growth and development during pregnancy. You have to start to prevent stunting in children by ensuring the mother is properly and adequately nourished.”

On his part, the Commissioner for Information and Strategy in Ogun State, Otunba Adedayo Adeneye said the overview of the National Nutritional Level indicates that 80 per cent of the world’s stunted children, live in 14 countries and Nigeria is the second largest contributor after India.

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“This is largely because underweight has scaled up from 25 per cent to 32 per cent and stunting from 34.5 per cen to 43 per cent. Also, four out of ten, that is over 16 million under-fives are stunted as Nigeria loses 2,300 and 145 women of child bearing age to death every day,” he said.

Continuing, Adeneye said, “No doubt, balanced nutrition is essential for the proper growth of the young child, to engender the overall development of the cognitive, physical and psychology of the child. Consequently, various interventions, among which is the Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF), were introduced in Ogun state to encourage proper techniques in feeding the young and effectively curtail the prevalence of malnutrition in this part of the world.

“With a robust collaboration with UNICEF, IYCF quiz programme has been executed in six different local government areas of the state with successful outreach to not less than 900 pregnant women and nursing mothers of under-five, for a better understanding of benefits therein with a resounding achievement.”

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However, to address the problems of stunting, Mrs Ezeogu called for the extension of maternity leave for mothers in Ogun State so they can be allowed to exclusively breastfeed their babies in the first six months, and this would help to reduce child nutrition in the South West.

In her welcome address, the Communications Officer of UNICEF, Blessing Ejiofor said, for any child to survive, the child needs adequate nutrition.

“Adequate nutrition is the right of every child. If 19.4 per cent of children in the South West are stunted, then this calls for more work to be done in taking actions to reverse the ugly trend.”