UNICEF has expressed fresh concern over the level of malnutrition in the South-West geo-political zone and attributed the situation to poor adherence to Exclusive Breast Feeding (EBF).
The UNICEF Communication Specialist, Mr Geoffrey Njoku, expressed the concern in Ibadan on Monday at the opening of a two-day media dialogue on child malnutrition.
The theme of the conference is, “Good nutrition, invest more.”
According to Njoku, the assumption that malnutrition is only in the northern part of Nigeria is not true and misleading.
The communication expert, quoting a 2013 survey, said that the South-West had 22 per cent stunted children under the age of five.
He said malnutrition was a national problem.
Njoku, who narrated his Owerri hometown experience in Imo, said studies had shown that 13 per cent of children born to rich families also suffered malnutrition.
The Communication Officer of UNICEF, Mrs Blessing Ejiofor, said Media Coalition Against Malnutrition was aimed at creating opportunities for media advocacy on child nutrition through sensitisation.
“It also provides media partners with the knowledge and materials to support advocacy for child nutrition, acquaint the media with malnutrition situation in Nigeria with particular reference to child malnutrition,” she said.
Mrs Ogunbumi Omotayo from the Federal Ministry of Health said “Nigeria has the highest number of stunted children under age five in sub-Saharan Africa.
Omotayo also said that globally, Nigeria had 37 per cent of all stunted children, 18 per cent wasting and 29 per cent underweight.
She said that Nigeria’s infant mortality rate was 69 in 100 live births, and under-five mortality of 128 in 1000 live births, while only 17 per cent were exclusively breast fed.
Mrs Ada Ezeogu, the UNICEF Nutrition Specialist, said Nigeria’s Nutrition Indices (2013) showed that only 17 per cent of Nigerian mothers engaged in EBF.
Ezeogu said this was far below the 50 per cent international standard requirement.
She said malnutrition was not all about food but inadequate care, knowledge, food insecurity, unsanitary environment and other factors, which were evident in the six states of the region.
She identified over-nutrition, under-nutrition and micronutrient deficiency as burdens of malnutrition in Nigeria.
Ezeogu called for more emphasis on the 1,000 days from the period of conception to when the child attained the age of two.
She said the South-West was noted for good compliance with the six months on EBF but failed in the complementary feeding that followed immediately the child stopped EBF.
Ezeogu said that if the 50 per cent EBF international standard was achieved, the child killer diseases would be reduced by 50 per cent.
She called for policy, coordination and partnership to promote EBF in the region and the country at large.