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UNICEF Calls for Increased Funding to Tackle Malnutrition in Nigeria



UNICEF has made a heartfelt plea to governments and other stakeholders at various levels to increase their financial commitment to addressing malnutrition among Nigerian children. This impassioned call to action came from Ms. Nkeiru Enwelum, UNICEF’s Nutrition Officer, during a two-day media event in Port Harcourt. The event, held on a Wednesday, focused on the critical issue of ‘Nutrition Financing in Nigeria.’

Ms. Enwelum delivered a presentation titled “Nutrition Situation in Nigeria: An Overview of Malnutrition in Nigeria and Its Impact on Children.” In her address, she underlined the urgent necessity for greater funding. This funding is essential to support awareness campaigns in remote regions and to provide crucial assistance to severely malnourished children throughout the country.

Citing data from the 2018 National Demographic and Health Survey, Ms. Enwelum emphasized the alarming fact that approximately 12 million out of Nigeria’s 35 million under-five children were suffering from stunted growth due to malnutrition. This stark statistic highlights the gravity of the situation.

Mr. Geoffrey Njoku, UNICEF’s Communication Specialist, echoed the purpose of this dialogue. He stressed that it is aimed at identifying funding shortfalls in both national and state budgets to comprehensively address the issue of child malnutrition across the entire country. This concerted effort by UNICEF and its partners underscores the critical importance of addressing this pressing issue and safeguarding the health and future of Nigerian children.

Combating malnutrition 

Enwelum pointed out that one in three Nigerian children suffered from stunting and outlined various forms of malnutrition, including acute malnutrition, severe wasting, stunting, and obesity.

She explained that stunting is considered chronic malnutrition because it develops over an extended period further stressing that the consequences of stunting could lead to developmental delays and hinder cognitive development.

Enwelum revealed that Nigeria ranked first in Africa for data on malnourished children and second globally, as she shared statistics, stating that approximately one million people experienced acute food insecurity, with around 17.7 million people facing hunger in Nigeria.

What she said

Enwulum emphasized saying,

  • “The states with the highest number of people suffering from food insecurity in Nigeria are Kano and Lagos.
  • “Even though Kano, Borno, Katsina, and Lagos rank high in the food insecurity ladder, malnutrition is widespread in the country, affecting people living in other parts of the country”.
  • “Some of the diseases or resultant body malfunctions arising from malnutrition are micronutrient deficiency, anemia, rickets, and vitamin A deficiency.”

To tackle this issue, Enwelum stressed the importance of implementing prevention measures, interventions, and strategies to combat malnutrition effectively.

She advocated for ensuring that children have access to nutritious food and essential supplements, such as vitamin A supplements emphasizing that preventing malnutrition is more cost-effective than treating it.

She also called for a coordinated, multi-sectoral approach by the government, involving all sectors and stakeholders, to deliver comprehensive nutrition interventions and prioritize children’s well-being.

She thereafter called for an assessment of progress in the health sector, noting that Nigeria was making significant strides in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly in the area of exclusive breastfeeding, with a potential to meet the target by 2030.