Economics, News, Politics

Nigerians Are Prone To Malnutrition. Where Do We Go From Here?

Nmesoma Okwudili


April 1, 2023

With over 200 million people, Nigeria is the most populous nation in Africa. Sadly, the government must also contend with a high malnutrition rate, a significant public health concern. Recent reports indicate that Nigeria has the largest number of malnourished children in Africa. A staggering 17 million children in the United States are malnourished.

The root causes of malnutrition in Nigeria are complex and multifaceted, including poverty, inadequate access to clean water, poor sanitation, and inadequate infant feeding practises. As malnourished children are more susceptible to diseases like pneumonia, diarrhoea, and malaria, malnutrition contributes significantly to child mortality. In addition, malnourished children are more likely to experience long-term effects such as stunted growth, cognitive impairment, and diminished earning potential as adults.

Poverty is a major factor, as many families cannot afford to feed their children a balanced diet. It has increased the consumption of inexpensive, nutrient-poor foods, thereby contributing to malnutrition.

There are numerous causes for Nigeria’s high malnutrition rate. Many children lack access to nutrient-dense foods, which is the first problem. Three in ten children aged 6 to 23 months are malnourished. Poverty exacerbates this problem because many families cannot afford healthy food options. As a result, many children consume a high proportion of carbohydrates and a low proportion of protein and essential micronutrients, and more than half of all children under the age of five are malnourished. This indicates that these children are either stunted, malnourished, or obese. Malnutrition has far-reaching effects, as it raises the risk of infections, reduces immunity, and impairs cognitive development, resulting in poor academic performance.

Additionally, Nigeria faces food insecurity and conflict in certain regions, resulting in restricted access to food and essentials. For example, according to a report by the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) Working Group of Nigeria, over 600,000 children in North East Nigeria are severely malnourished. These circumstances make it even more difficult to address the issue of malnutrition.

Lack of access to healthcare services has hindered the country’s ability to detect and treat malnutrition cases. Many malnourished children do not receive the necessary medical care, which exacerbates their condition and causes severe health problems.

In order to address the issue of malnutrition in Nigeria, a number of solutions have been proposed. The first step is to increase nutrition-related awareness and education. This can be accomplished through public health campaigns that emphasise the importance of a balanced diet and parent education on how to prepare nutritious meals for children.

Improving access to nutrient-dense foods is a further solution. The government can consider implementing policies that expand access to healthy food options or provide subsidies to make these options more affordable. This may involve promoting local agriculture and providing farmers with incentives to cultivate and distribute healthy crops.

Improving Nigeria’s healthcare infrastructure is also crucial for combating malnutrition. For effective treatment and prevention, health facilities must have the necessary personnel, resources, and medical supplies. This is accomplished by funding health facilities, training medical staff, and distributing medical supplies and equipment.
Malnutrition is a serious issue in Nigeria, affecting millions of children.

The Nigerian government, in collaboration with numerous non-governmental organisations and international organisations, has taken a number of steps to address the country’s malnutrition crisis. The government has implemented policies and programmes to improve the nutritional status of children, particularly during the first one thousand days of life, a crucial period for growth and development.

The National Food and Nutrition Policy, which aims to promote optimal nutrition and reduce malnutrition, is one of the government’s flagship initiatives. The policy outlines the production, processing, and distribution of food as well as the promotion of healthy feeding practises among carers.

In addition, the government has collaborated with UNICEF and other organisations to implement community-based acute malnutrition management (CMAM) programmes. These programmes aim to detect and treat cases of malnutrition in the community at an early stage. In addition, they provide education on good feeding practises, food security, and hygiene, which helps prevent malnutrition in children.

Nevertheless, despite these efforts, Nigeria’s malnutrition crisis remains a significant obstacle. More than one million children in the region suffer from severe malnutrition as a result of the ongoing conflict in the country’s northern region. Inadequate funding, a lack of political will, and corruption have further impeded the successful implementation of programmes to reduce malnutrition in the country.

Nigeria, with over 17 million malnourished children, has the highest number of malnourished children in Africa. Malnutrition is a major public health concern in Nigeria, particularly among children under the age of five, with the Northern regions being the hardest hit. The complex and multifaceted causes of malnutrition in Nigeria include poverty, poor healthcare, inadequate access to clean water, poor sanitation, and poor infant feeding practises. The Nigerian government has implemented a number of policies and programmes to combat malnutrition, but additional funding is required to combat this crisis.


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