By Chika Onyesi
The high rate of malnutrition across Nigeria has been linked to micronutrient deficiency among vulnerable populations like young children and pregnant women.The absence of these micronutrients according to health experts leads to severe acute malnutrition, which in turn is accountable for the death of more than three million children each year around the world.
Micronutrient deficiency has also been linked to severe stunting and wasting in children under the age of five.
In Nigeria about 25million, under-five children are wasted, that is ‘‘too thin for their age’’ and over 10million others stunted ‘‘too short for their age’’ as a result of Severe Acute Malnutrition.
This situation is not only the result of lack of food but also the deficiency in essential life-giving nutrients which is responsible for the health, growth and development of children.
This life-threatening deficiency has now been attributed to a lack of access to basic government health services by underserved communities, hard to reach areas and communities under insurgency.
Though there are organisations working to complement the government’s actions to deliver these micronutrients to children where they are needed, experts say these efforts are not enough.
This situation has now raised the need to deepen the discussion on micronutrient production and distribution.
Speaking at a partnership meeting of stakeholders working on micronutrient supplementation lawmaker representing Etinan/Nsit Ibom/Nsit Ubium in Akwa Ibom State, Onofiok Luke tasked the federal government to ensure the provision of micronutrients at all health facilities as a key health priority to improve livelihoods and end malnutrition in children and pregnant mothers.
“I intend to engage my colleagues who are medical doctors, nutritionists or dieticians at the National Assembly. With what we are able to agree and come up, we will put resources together to make sure that we become a voice especially for the young people using the school feeding program to ensure that the multivitamin component is factored into the school feeding program” he said
“Health Care is one of the ways to give back to the people every decision and policy makers in Nigeria must aligned with the partners and see what we can give to our people without cost, this way we are putting together the things we need to improve health and reach Universal Health Coverage for all in Nigeria” said Onofiok.
Meanwhile a health charity, Vitamin Angels, wants government to improve the distribution of micronutrients and strengthen primary health care centres to help reduce cases of “hidden hunger among children and pregnant women.
The charity which works with about 140 partners in Nigeria says it has reached about 9 million children with vitamin A and Albendazole supplements and 6 million pregnant and lactating mothers with multivitamins.
According to Vitamin Angels programme officer, Suleiman Yakubu, ‘‘the goal of the charity is to contribute towards the drive for Universal Health Coverage with nutrition as a focus.
’’Nutrition is a big component of Universal Health Coverage; every Nigerian citizen must have access to health care and that starts with preventive measures, providing good education around nutrition, providing supplements for people who do not have a huge variety of diets, as that would reduce the burden of malnutrition”.
Coordinator, Vitamin Angels Nigeria, Dr. Francis Ohanyido said the charity had reviewed the many benefits of prenatal supplementation for both mothers and children in Nigeria and are committed to ensuring that supplements are made available at all health facilities.
“Through the supplements given to pregnant women, like iron and folic acid (IFA) there is a significant reduction in the occurrence of low birth weight among newborns and maternal anaemia and iron deficiency in Nigeria,” Ohanyido said.