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2.5m Nigerian kids suffer acute malnutrition, Says Minister

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The Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Prince Clem Agba has described as worrisome the number of Nigerians suffering from severe acute malnutrition.

About 2.5 million Nigerian children under the age of 5 years are reported to be suffering from severe acute malnurition.

The country is also said to have the second highest burden of stunted children in the world.

The minister expressed his worries while flagging of the 2020 Nigeria Nutrition Week in Abuja on Monday.

Agba said the situation “calls for urgent measures to reverse the trend”.

He stressed that recent effort by the government, particularly in the areas of child nutrition and breastfeeding, malnutrition and other public health issues, have not been able to address the challenge.

This challenge he saidmust be addressed “through the implementation of innovative policies and strategies that are appropriately funded, data-driven, sustainable and optimized in terms of transparency and accountability for the efforts to yield the desired results.

“Furthermore, we must also continue to work collaboratively across all levels of governments, and hand-in-hand with the private sector and development partners in this regard”, he stated.

The Minister pointed out that the ministry “places high premium on nutrition in view of its multi-sectoral nature and overarching effects on the nation’s socio – economic development, adding that this year’s theme – “Nutrition: The Bedrock for Economic Development” was carefully selected to further drive home the importance the Ministry attaches to nutrition as a prerequisite for national development.

He said, “Over the years, this week-long annual event has proved to be a veritable platform for intensifying awareness on the importance of food and nutrition on child survival and its impact on development, productivity, economic growth and national development. This can be attested to by some of the achievements recorded in the past editions of the programme.

“Research has shown that investments in nutrition prevents undernutrition, build human capital, boost shared prosperity and improve health outcomes. Returns from programmes for improving nutrition far outweigh their costs while delay/failure in addressing malnutrition has high costs in term of higher budget outlay as well as lost GDP and this makes investment in nutrition a must do”.

Agba stated that under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria has shown a clear commitment to the eradication of malnutrition through the adoption and domestication of policies “which emphasizes increased reliance on domestic funding; and a well-coordinated multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholders’ approach backed by sustained high-level political commitment”.

“This is evident in Nigeria’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (2017-2020), a medium-term strategic plan aimed at investing in our people, diversifying the economy and restoring growth, which places critical emphasis on strategic multi-sectoral interventions to address food security and malnutrition”, he added.

He also pointed out that due to the importance the current administration places on child survival, nutrition is one of the key thematic areas in the Medium-Term National Development Plans (MTNDP 2021-2025 & 2026-2030) and the Nigeria Agenda 2050 presently being developed by the Ministry.

“Our emphasis has been on protecting the economy and funding the country’s healthcare needs with the COVID-19 response spurring necessary transformation and innovation in the fiscal space and beyond”, he stated.
He further noted that under- nutrition has irreversible consequences on physical and cognitive development – feeding the vicious intergenerational cycle of poverty.

“The realization that the determinants of malnutrition operate at the household, community and national levels is responsible for Mr. President’s insistence on implementing several pro-poor initiatives aimed at empowering the poor including his commitment to taking 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in the next 10 years. This is aimed at ensuring optimal nutritional status for the greater number of Nigerians.

“Nigeria’s food and nutrition situation and the attendant poor global image in terms of economic and development milestones are major concerns to the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning. This, among others, necessitated the desire to carry out a week-long “Nutrition Campaign Week” conceived to serve as a platform for mobilizing nutrition stakeholders towards addressing the challenge of malnutrition, which has been termed “the silent killer”.

“This challenge has been further accentuated by the new global normal occasioned by the outbreak of COVD-19 pandemic with its attendant economic impact leading to food insecurity”, the minister said.

To commemorate the 2020 edition of the Nutrition Week, according to him, several activities have been lined up including a Joint Ministerial Press Briefing, a Webinar Conference on Nutrition, and sensitization of the media on nutrition awareness on basic issues that would influence the quality of coverage and frequency of reporting of nutrition activities among other activities.

He further noted that “under nutrition has irreversible consequences on physical and cognitive development – feeding the vicious intergenerational cycle of poverty. The realization that the determinants of malnutrition operate at the household, community and national levels is responsible for Mr. President’s insistence on implementing several pro-poor initiatives aimed at empowering the poor including his commitment to taking 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in the next 10 years.

This is aimed at ensuring optimal nutritional status for the greater number of Nigerians.

“Nigeria’s food and nutrition situation and the attendant poor global image in terms of economic and development milestones are major concerns to the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning. This, among others, necessitated the desire to carry out a week-long “Nutrition Campaign Week” conceived to serve as a platform for mobilizing nutrition stakeholders towards addressing the challenge of malnutrition, which has been termed “the silent killer”.

“This challenge has been further accentuated by the new global normal occasioned by the outbreak of COVD-19 pandemic with its attendant economic impact leading to food insecurity”, he added.

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