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70 billion needed to reduce stunting, anaemia in women globally by 2025

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$70 billion is needed globally to reach the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s target of reducing stunting and anaemia in women, as well as increased exclusive breastfeeding in 10 years.

About $7 billion is needed yearly from 2016 to 2025 to meet the target.

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The country loses over $1.5 billion in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) yearly to vitamin and mineral deficiencies, while about $8.5 billion is lost globally to malnutrition, which impedes efforts to reduce poverty.

A consultant paediatrician and Professor of Public Health, Ashiru Garba, disclosed this at a media dialogue organised by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Child Rights Bureau of the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture.

According to him, Nigeria is home to the third-largest population of chronically undernourished (stunted) children in the world, stressing that there is enormous geographic variation in nutrition outcomes, with the worst malnutrition concentrated in the North East and North West regions of the country.

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Malnutrition leads to impaired physical growth, sub-optimal physical growth and life-long susceptibility to illnesses, as well as reduces economic productivity through lowered performance or absenteeism from work, he asserted.

He added that the national yearly cost of treating one million underweight children is $50 million.

The expert regretted that up to 45 per cent of all preventable child deaths were attributable to under-nutrition, noting that children with Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) were nine times more likely to die than well-nourished children.

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“A full course of therapy to save the life of a SAM child costs between $100 to $200 per child. National annual cost of under-nutrition (treatment of one million underweight children) is $50 million, 90 per cent of which is covered by families,” he said.

UNICEF Nutrition Manager, Sangita Dagai, observed that “malnutrition leads to children’s failure to achieve growth and actualise their potential,” stressing that prevention of malnutrition in the first two years could help in breaking the cycle of under-nutrition.

Dagai, who explained that there is a link between maternal and child nutrition, observed that over 60 per cent of women, including girls aged 15 to 49, are anaemic in Borno and Yobe states.

On his part, UNICEF Nutrition Specialist, Ifeanyi Maduanusi, said the organisation combats malnutrition using systems, life cycle and multi-sectoral approaches.

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