Malnutrition: Nigeria in a state of double emergency, says senator

Lanre Tejuoso, a senator, representing Ogun central, says Nigeria’s response to malnutrition is inadequate and does not match the “severity of the problem”.

In an article published on Thompson reuters foundation, Tejuoso said of the 2.5 million children suffering from severe acute malnutrition each year, Nigeria only treats about 500,000 leaving a huge gap that calls for more commitment.

“Up until now, our response to the malnutrition crisis has not matched the severity of the problem,” Tejuosho said.

“Nigeria is in a state of double emergency. Chronic malnutrition, caused by poor nutrition over a long period of time, plagues one in three children under five. And in recent years, acute malnutrition has skyrocketed—particularly in the north-east—necessitating urgent, life-saving action. This widespread malnutrition crisis threatens the health and development of both individuals and the nation,”

Tejuosho said policymakers need to establish programmes that prevent and treat malnutrition and also increase funding interventions.

“Chronic malnutrition rates which have remained fairly stagnant for the last 15 years also need to be addressed. Eleven million children are malnourished in Nigeria,” Tejuosho said.

“As a result, the lives, development and future productivity of 11 million children are all compromised. Yet to date, nutrition policies and programmes have been chronically underfunded. The disconnect between what is urgently needed and current funding levels is deeply concerning.”

He said the country’s current economic situation makes investments in nutrition important because “poor nutrition impedes cognitive and physical development, which translates to decreased learning ability, reduced productivity in adult years and increased healthcare costs.”

He lamented what he described as the poor intervention in terms of funding, saying scaling up interventions could help Nigeria reach “the World Health Assembly (WHA) target of reducing stunting by 40 percent by 2025 and add USD 29 billion to our economy. ”

Tejuosho said Nigeria needs to target women and children in the first 1,000 days of life by promoting breastfeeding and fortifying foods that mother and child consume.

He said Nigeria’s 2017 budget should include N1 billion for nutrition and advised policymakers to fully implement  the country’s National Food and Nutrition Policy (NFNP).