Adopt practical solutions to end malnutrition crisis-UNICEF tells govt

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The United Nations Children’s Fund has tasked the Nigerian government, the private sector, donors, parents and families to invest more resources in interventions aimed at preventing malnutrition among young children and support treatment efforts when prevention fails.

The children’s charity in a statement urged Nigeria to adopt practical solutions to end the growing malnutrition crisis currently facing it.

This is as it warns that an alarmingly high number of children are suffering the consequences of poor diets and a food system that has failed them.

The call for improved nutrition is part of advocacy by the agency to mark the 2019 World Food Day.

As part of its solutions to this challenge, the agency has asked for support for nursing mothers, to enable them adequately feed and care for their children as well as empowerment for families, children and young people to demand nutritious food, including; improved nutrition education.

They want government to utilise proven legislation such as sugar taxes – to reduce demand for unhealthy foods and also build healthy food environments for children and adolescents by using proven approaches, such as accurate and easy-to-understand labelling and stronger controls on the marketing of unhealthy foods.

Meanwhile, data by UNICEF reveals that about 149 million children are stunted, or too short for their age, including 13.1 million children in Nigeria while 50 million children are wasted, or too thin for their height, including 2.9 million children in Nigeria

According to the data, malnutrition remains a major public health and development concern, as 49 percent of children under five years of age are not growing well (they are either stunted, wasted or overweight). This is the second highest proportion after the Democratic Republic of Congo in the West and Central Africa region. This is partly because 34 percent of children between six months and two years of age are fed food that is not rich and diversified enough to ensure optimal growth.

‘‘The State of the World’s Children 2019 report finds that at least 1 in 3 children under five – or 200 million – is either undernourished or overweight. Almost 2 in 3 children between six months and two years of age are not fed food that supports their rapidly growing bodies and brains. This puts them at risk of poor brain development, weak learning, low immunity, increased infections and, in many cases, death’’.

The report warns that poor eating and feeding practices start from the earliest days of a child’s life. Though breastfeeding can save lives, for example, in Nigeria, only 27 per cent of children under six months of age are exclusively breastfed and an increasing number of children are fed infant formula. This means many Nigerian children are missing out on the life-saving benefits of breast milk which is a baby’s first vaccine and offers the best possible nutrition at the start of life.

 

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