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500,000 Nigerian children die annually from malnutrition —UNICEF •Calls for urgent action to end tragedy

By News Express on 26/08/2015

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About 500,000 Nigerian children aged five years and below die annually as a result of malnutrition, the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) has disclosed. It made the disclosure today in Calabar, capital of Cross River State, on day one of a two-day Media Dialogue on Nutrition and Community Management of Acute Malnutrition organised by it and the Child Rights Information Bureau of the Federal Ministry of Information.

UNICEF described the tragic situation as a silent health crisis. It stressed that unless something is done urgently by government and all Nigerians, malnutrition would continue to take a heavy toll on the Nigerian children, thus putting the country’s future in jeopardy.

The workshop, which is being coordinated by UNICEF’s Communication Specialist, Mr. Geoffrey Njoku, also has top officials of the federal and Cross River State ministries of information and health in attendance.

Speaking on the nutritional situation in Nigeria and its impact on children, the Chief Nutritionist of UNICEF, Mr. Arjan de Wagt, said that most of the children die of malnutrition within their first 1,000 days on earth, which he described as “window period.”

Mr. Wagt said that the first 1,000 days of a child are so important that they determine not only the child’s growth but also his entire health status throughout the life, up to old age.

The Chief Nutritionist stressed that malnutrition affects not only the poor but also some wealthy ones, adding that part of the effects of the malnutrition is obesity.

“Whenever we talk about malnutrition, the only thing that comes to the mind is that it is for the poor uneducated rural people who have less to eat. But malnutrition also includes eating wrong food or unbalanced diet. It is about lack of knowledge of the food we eat and not lack of food,” he said.

Wagt said that the chief cause of malnutrition is lack of exclusive breast feeding of the child in the first six months of his birth, insisting that breast milk is made strictly for the babies and they must not be denied of it.

According to him, children that are not well-fed and properly cared for usually experience stunted growth, become overweight, micro nutrient deficiency and are generally prone to life threatening diseases.

The speakers at the workshop, including. Dr. Chris Osa Isokpunwu, Head of Nutrition at the Federal Ministry of Health, and Coordinator of African Centre for Media and Information Literacy, Chido Onuma, called on the media to be in the forefront for advocacy on behavioural change amongst Nigeria to reverse the trend.

Though UNICEF announced that through its numerous interventions, about 208,000 lives of mal-nourished children have been saved in the last 12 months, the speakers stressed the need for more financial assistance from donor agencies to increase the number of those it could save from the dangerous effect of malnutrition to one million per annum.

They also stressed the importance of people regularly going for de-worming and for them to observe behavioural change as well as take other positive measures to stem the tide of death from malnutrition.

The workshop, which is being attended by no fewer than 50 journalists, among them online publishers, editors, senior correspondents from newspapers, television and radio stations, ends tomorrow.

Source News Express

Posted 26/08/2015 6:46:31 PM


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