According to the Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey, Nigeria has about 19.8 million children who are malnourished, giving Nigeria the highest burden of stunting in Africa and the second highest in the world.
About 70 percent of children under five are anaemic as child nutrition is core to human capital development in Nigeria. This presents an urgent crisis that needs to be addressed.
Kano State alone in the North-West has 1.5 million children under five years of age who are stunted, representing over 10 percent of the country’s burden.
When Channels Television visited Ungwan Ukwu Primary Healthcare Centre in Kano, children under five years were observed receiving medical attention for acute malnutrition and other related ailments.
The faces of the children told of the scourge of malnutrition, particularly in our rural communities.
Arira Umar, whose three-year-old son Ahmed was severely malnourished, could not sit or stand.
The situation was the same with Abdulmalik, who was 18 months but had the weight of a three-month-old child.
His mother came all the way from Katsina State to seek treatment for him.
The children are among several captured in a recent survey on infant and young child feeding practices in children aged 0 to 23 months.
For Kano State, the situation is dire as only 10.1 percent of babies are exclusively breastfed; 15.7 percent of them are fed with minimum diet diversity, and a mere 10.6 percent receive food from animal sources such as meat, milk and eggs.
Donor organisations are collaborating with the Kano Ministry of Health to bring treatment for malnourished children and have treated over 50,000 children so far but the challenge is enormous.
Ready-to-use therapeutic food (RTF) is often deployed at the centre but was insufficient to meet the huge demand.
The challenges notwithstanding, the Kano State Nutrition Coordinator said the government was willing to tackle malnutrition.
Education of mothers would be key, the Matron of the Angwan-Ukwu Health Centre, Hasiya Yerima, said that mothers who visit the facility are sensitised on good nutrition from proper breastfeeding.
For those who make it to health facilities like this, there is hope still. Recovering Farida who was breastfeeding her late sister’s child and Amina who is a mother of twins could smile as their children had become playful once again.
The former president also blamed the nation’s level of development on inconsistent policy by previous administrations.
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