A nutrition expert, Dr. Davis Bamidele Omotola, has said exposing children to malnutrition is similar to sentencing them to death for no crime.
The medical expert said the death of every single child is a huge disaster not only to his family, but to the whole nation because of what the child could become in the future.
Omotola spoke at a Media Dialogue organised by Child Rights Information Bureau of the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture in collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Fund.
The Media Dialogue, held in Yola, Adamawa State, was attended by journalists drawn from different parts of the country.
Omotola expressed worry that 50 per cent of children in 12 states in Nigeria are stunted as a result of malnutrition.
He lamented that the insurgency in the North Eastern part of Nigeria has worsened the situation of malnourished children in the region to severe acute malnutrition.
He gave the overview of the situation of malnutrition in the North East in which he revealed mind bugling figures of malnourished children in the region.
Omotola said as a result of malnutrition, 25 million children under the age of five in Nigeria are wasting and that 10 million children in the country are stunting, adding that the greater part of this figure is from the North East.
He lamented that the insurgency in the North East as a result of the Boko Haram crisis further worsened the problem of malnutrition in the region as people could no longer go to their farms, which contributed to food scarcity and destroyed means of livelihood of many people.
Omotola warned that children with severe form of acute malnutrition have nine fold risk of death compared to well nourished children.
He said one in five children with severe acute malnutrition cases would die if treatment is not provided at right time.
The UNICEF Communication Specialist, Dr. Geoffrey Njoku, said the objective of the media dialogue was to present facts and and figures to expose the current situation of malnutrition and draw attention to it so that necessary steps would be taken to address the problem.
Njoku charged the participants to explore various media tools to take messages on malnutrition situation to the policy makers so as to prompt them to come up with policies that would bring positive change.
Also, a UNICEF Nutrition Officer, Dr. Martins Jackson, highlighted the efforts of UNICEF in collaboration with the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development and other partners in addressing and curtailing the scourge of malnutrition in the North East.
Earlier in his remarks, the Deputy Director/Head of Child Rights Information Bureau at the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, Abuja, Olumide Osanyinpeju, commended UNICEF for its efforts aimed at ensuring bright future for children in Nigeria, particularly in addressing malnutrition.
Osanyinpeju, who spoke on behalf of the Federal Government, said the efforts of UNICEF in Nigeria is laudable.
His words: “Let me first of all commend UNICEF for their unyielding partnership with the Federal Government of Nigeria and for their contributions towards all activities being carried out to uphold the rights of Nigerian children.
“I wish to specifically note the constant support of the Media and External Relations Section and the consistent efforts at ensuring that the wellbeing of our children is promoted through the various interventions of the Section, one of which is continuous dialogues with members of the Fourth Estate of the Realm.”
Speaking further, Osanyinpeju also commended the UK aids Department for International Department and the Federal Ministry of Health and other line partners for their collaboration in addressing malnutrition in the North East.
He said: “We highly acknowledge your priceless contributions towards promoting the health of Nigerian mothers and children and in ensuring that the goals of the health strategies targeted at them are met through constant dialogues.”
Osanyinpeju said there is the need for investment in child malnutrition for the future and that it is necessary to raise awareness and understanding on the problem of malnutrition in Nigeria so as to ensure allocation of resource for food and nutrition security at all levels.
He said: “It is imperative to combat malnutrition because it can cause death in young children, particularly those under five years of age.
“There should be concerted effort to fight malnutrition out in totality to ensure the attainment of desired results.
“Malnutrition is a large burden to a country and tackling malnutrition entails empowering and educating people.
“Improved nutrition is the key to improved national and human development and this can be done by educating the populace and creating a positive approach towards nutrition.”
Osanyinpeju added that addressing nutrition is one of the ways through which sustainable development goals can be achieved.
He emphasised the need for strategic efforts to improve food security at the national, community and household levels to reduce malnutrition among infants and children, adolescents and women of reproductive age and to significantly reduce micronutrient deficiency disorders, especially among the vulnerable group and to increase the knowledge of nutrition among the populace.
He charged the media to raise awareness and understanding on the problem of malnutrition in Nigeria.
He said: “It is necessary that awareness be created amongst Nigerian populace especially for mothers; both lactating and non-lactating mothers to give within the first six months of birth the breast milk which is enough for the infant, as nutrition is the key to national development.”
Osanyinpeju also said adequate attention should be given to the nutrition of women, especially pregnant women, to reduce severe and acute malnutrition.
He said: “Let us share the vision to see that every citizen has food that is nutrition secured by mobilizing people at grass root level to know their rights with regards to food by involving policy makers, work with the government and see how to tackle the issue of stunting, wasting and obesity to its minimal level.
“Journalists should come together in leadership to take actions on malnutrition for a better growth and well-nourished Nigeria in the future.”