(thetidenews)- - Nigeria ranks amongst the world’s top ten countries with the largest number of underweight children with an estimated six million under-five who are underweight if the new statistics released by the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) is anything to go by.
To combat malnutrition, the federal government has adopted seven new strategies. The National Planning Commission through the National Committee on Food and Nutrition (NCFN) in collaboration with UNICEF has identified improving food security through programmes and projects in both agricultural and non-agricultural sectors to increase household income, especially in the poorer cadre of the population.
NCFN, the main basis for the co-ordination and harmonisation of all food and nutrition related policies and programme in the country is to foster care-givers capacity base by promoting optimal infant feeding practices and reducing the herculean task on women to create more time for childcare, through the development of labour saving technologies. The committee aims to improve health services to provide essential maternal and child health care.
Other strategies in this wise are: micronutrient deficiency and anemia via a strategy including vitamin and mineral supplementation, food fortification and dietary diversification; combating iodine deficiency disorder through salt iodisation programme; plus institutionalising general consumer protection measures to ensure that food quality and consumer health are adequately safeguarded, as contained in the UNICEF Nigeria latest information sheet on nutrition made available to the media by the communication officer, Christine Jaulmes.
UNICEF representative in Nigeria, Mr Ayalew Abai, at a recent workshop, said this of Nigeria: Happily several African countries are on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) target for underweight – Benin, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, the Gambia and Mauritania. Nigeria is not in this group yet and this has important implications for the sub-region. Nigeria is by far the most populous country in the region and its proportion of underweight children dominates the regional statistics.
The UNICEF representative in Nigeria, urges the federal government to inject the same effort she has inserted in achieving and sustaining universal salt iodation in other nutrition interventions, notably, exclusive breast feeding and vitamin A supplementation.
The report highlights that women who are undernourished have lower resistance to infection and are more liable to die from common childhood ailment like malaria, diarrhea diseases or respiratory infections. It is also estimated that malnutrition contributes to over 50% to mortality amid children aged five years and below.
Jaulmes who backs the national nutrition response on sustainable elimination of vitamin A disorder as well as reduction of iron deficiency anemia and zinc deficiency, also approves of the improvement of early child care practices at households level and in early child care centres.