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UNICEF revs up efforts to save over 17m Nigerian children from stunting



To further secure the future of the nation in all ramifications, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), has iterated the need for all stakeholders to synergize on the rising toll of stunting on Nigerian children below five years.

The UNICEF Nutrition Specialist, Akure Office, Mrs Ada Ezeogu, said this yesterday at the opening of a 2-day “Media dialogue on child nutrition in South West Nigeria,” held in Ibadan, Oyo State.

According to her, statistics showed that 37 per cent of children representing over six million are malnourished, 43.6 per cent of estimated 40 million Nigerian children under age of 5yrs (from estimated population of 197 million) are stunted, while 19.4 per cent children in the South West suffer same deficiency.
“This is worse than the South East and South South but better than the North. And we must do more as agenda setters to keep this issue on national discourse and help reverse the ugly trend,” she said.

She explained that stunting, which is a failure to achieve ones own genetic potentials and severe, irreversible physical and cognitive damage caused by early chronic malnutrition, has myriads of negative implications on the nation’s economy and other facets of life.

Ezeogu, who stressed that stunting is a life sentence, estimated the total number of stunted under-five children in the country at 17, 217, 743 and 1, 514, 111 in the South West region while Ogun State has the highest incidence with 26.1 per cent and 277, 462 children. She decried the downward slide in the bid to reduce its prevalence some decades ago which was pegged at 50.3 per cent in 1990, drastically reduced overtime, but now increased significantly to 43.6 per cent according to a 2017 statistics report.

The Ogun State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Dayo Adeneye, who declared the event open, also lamented that the overview of National Nutritional Level shows that 80 per cent of the world’s stunted children, live in 14 countries and Nigeria is the second largest contributor after India. “It is equally lamentable to discover that Nigeria’s nutrition status has not improved for the past ten years. We cannot continue to fold our hands and stand aloof with such issues staring us in the face, most especially, when those affected are the vulnerable in society.

“These are the under-fives, who have no voice and are definitely looking up to us to proffer solutions to their plights,” he said, listing several interventions like Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) and other community based schemes to reduce the menace.

“This is largely because underweight has scaled up from 25% to 32% and stunting from 34.5% to 43.6%. 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 everyday.”

The UNICEF Communication Officer, Lagos, Mrs Blessing Ejiofor, noted that the media dialogue which is in collaboration with Ogun State Ministry of Information and Strategy, is a proactive partnership with journalists to sensitize the general public on causes and solutions to the menace.

She stated that the media, well equipped through in-depth, analytical and data driven presentations on the subject matter, would prevail on state governments and other stakeholders to take action on the current high rate of stunting in South West Nigeria.

“As agenda setters, we must do more to keep child nutrition conversations on the priority list of those that can act to reverse this ugly trend. UNICEF believes that journalists can help set the agenda for action against all forms of child malnutrition: be it severe acute malnutrition or stunting. “This, the media can do by creating heightened awareness among leaders and citizens. The media remains UNICEF’s major ally as we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone.”

Ejiofor, who affirmed that adequate nutrition is the right of every child, harped on increased reportage on child malnutrition with focus on increasing government funding as well as implementing policies to reduce the rate of stunting in the region, producing defined story angles on child malnutrition in South West.

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Ada EzeoguUNICEF

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