The Federal Government of Nigeria has acknowledged that the country currently has the third largest number of chronically undernourished children in the world and pledged that serious efforts were being made to reverse the trend.

Minister of State, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed who disclosed this at the flag-off of the 2017 edition of the Nutrition Week in Abuja on Tuesday, expressed hope that increased public awareness and implementation of a 10-year blueprint on nutrition in Nigeria will facilitate genuine change.

She said, “Nigeria is home to the third largest number of chronically undernourished children globally, with about 2.5 million children under 5 years affected by Severe Acute Malnutrition; if nothing is done, 1 in 5 (500,000) children will die annually.

“Malnourished children tend to have lower Intelligent Quotient (IQ) and impaired cognitive ability with resultant negative effect on their performance in school and productivity in later life.

“No developmental programme is complete without a package for nutrition improvement.

“Under constitutional democracy, the right to food and nutrition is the most important right of all rights, therefore every human rights agenda must accommodate issues of food and available evidence shows that investments in nutrition prevents under-nutrition, builds human capital, boost shared prosperity and improves health outcomes.”

In her speech, wife of the President, Hajia Aisha Buhari who is also a Nutrition Ambassador noted that with stakeholders’ support for her Future Assured Programme, the nutrition situation for children in internally-displaced persons’ camps have greatly improved.

Represented by a former Deputy Governor of Plateau State , Mrs Pauline Tallen, the first lady emphasized that breast-feeding would save lives, bolster economies and contribute to better health outcomes for women and children .

“Breastfeeding would provide numerous health and economic benefits, increased exclusive breastfeeding rates can avert 100 , 000 infant deaths annually in Nigeria and add more than $ 150 million dollars to the Nigerian economy each year,” she said.

“It is a fundamental driver in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. ”

In his welcome address, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Budget and National Planning, Mr. Leon Aliboh explained that this year’s event is targeted at high level stakeholders at the National and Sub-national level.

“It will also serve as platform to sensitize us on the relevance of mainstreaming Food and Nutrition policies and programmes into the Economic Growth and Recovery Plan (ERGP) at all levels of Government,” he said.

“The Nutrition Week with the theme:’’ Improved Nutrition and Empowerment’’ speaks to two of the three broad strategic objectives of the ERGP-Economic Growth and Investing in our people; we will use the occasion to show case how the Food and Nutrition Policy has been mainstreamed into the ERGP.

“This is more appropriate at this time to ensure that a budget line is created for food and Nutrition stakeholders in the relevant MDAs at all levels.”

In a solidarity message, Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole who was represented by Mrs. Adebimpe Adebiyi, a director in his ministry expressed regrets that nutritional deficiency in Nigeria was so bad that 18 percent of children from wealthy homes had stunted growth due to inadequate knowledge and wrong choice of foods lacking required micronutrients.

The 2017 Nigeria “Nutrition Week” which is the second edition include a number of activities such as press briefing, road walks, advocacy in churches and mosques as well as symposia and public enlightenment campaigns aimed at behaviour change towards healthy diets by the general public.

Several multilateral organizations and development partners are joining hands with the Federal Government towards actualizing the event’s success.

Key findings in a UNICEF-backed study on the economic cost of inadequate breastfeeding in Nigeria include:

•        Each year, optimal breastfeeding practices have the potential to prevent 103,742 child deaths, an important contribution to reducing overall under-five child mortality

•        Prevent over 10 million cases of childhood diarrhea and pneumonia

•        Save US$22 million (?6.93 billion) in health care system treatment costs related to inadequate breastfeeding

•        Generate an additional US$21 billion (?6.62 trillion) for the economy, or 4.1 percent of its GNI, over children’s productive years by increasing cognitive capacity and preventing premature mortality in the early years

•        Eliminate most of the US$38 million (?11 billion) household cost of breast milk substitutes4

•        Reduce families’ out of pocket expenditures to treat diarrhea and pneumonia.

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Nigeria ranked third globally with largest chronically undernourished children, as FG pledges change

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