Mrs Sangita Duggal, a Nutrition Manager, the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) has emphasised the need to give children food with vital vitamins for their proper growth.
Duggal made the call in Maiduguri on Tuesday at the opening session of a three-day National Media Dialogue on child under-nutrition with health reporters.
The media dialogue was organised by the Child Rights Information Bureau (CRIB) of the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture in collaboration with UNICEF for states in the North-east – Borno, Adamawa and Yobe.
The nutrition expert said that 195 million under-five stunted growth in the world was as a result of malnutrition, which Nigeria accounted for a huge percentage of the figure.
“Malnutrition is the cause of children’s failure to achieve their goals and there is need for the media to change the narrative through reporting by educating mothers on proper diet for themselves and their children.
“Media assistant is largely required in sensitising the public on essentials of child nutrition; there are minimum diets required for a child from six months to 23 months.
“Non-consumption of vegetarian food in six months to 23 months of a child is deteriorating to the body and for children of six years to 10 years, the same applies.
“Over 60 per cent of women including adolescent girls between the ages of 15 and 49 are anaemic in Borno and Yobe; we have to bring people out of anaemia through our reports and good nutrition is sacrosanct to the body.
“A lot of nutrition is required to be stored in the body, pregnant women require good nutrition. What you eat during pregnancy matter most, it helps the good of the outcome of the baby,” she said.
Mr Samuel Sesay, the Officer-In-Charge, Chief of Field Office, UNICEF Maiduguri, stated that malnutrition was currently the biggest threat to child survival and development in the North-east of the country.
Sesay said that households in the North-east region were experiencing unprecedented levels of food crisis and hunger, and that malnutrition account for the underlying cause of nearly half of all deaths in under-five children globally.
“Household food insecurity, poor infant and young child feeding and care practices and feeding environment, hygiene, and health services have been identified as the underlying causes of under-nutrition in children.
“In North-east Nigeria, however, conflicts, multiple displacement, destruction of sources of livelihood for households, destruction of basic infrastructure and services, climate change and COVID-19 pandemic are peculiar contributors to under-nutrition.
“The importance of good nutrition on children’s development is enormous with far-reaching impact on child education, health, adult earning power, individual and family finance as well as the country’s economy,” he said.
He said that it was unacceptable for children to continue to bear the greatest burden of conflict, climate change and COVID-19, adding that ensuring good nutrition in children would help families and a cheaper route to nation building.
Sesay said that UNICEF would continue to advocate and work together with government of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states for increased budgetary allocation and release of funding for nutrition.
He said that UN agency would continue to give multi-sectoral approach to address malnutrition by combined efforts of line ministries such as health, water resources, agriculture, education, commerce, animal resources, women affairs and social welfare.
Sesay however urged the media to play its watchdog function, while calling the attention of policymakers to the nutrition crisis in the North-east of Nigeria.