At least 41 percent of Nigerian children under age five suffer stunted growth as a result of malnutrition, according to the Federal Ministry of Health.
The ministry said that from surveys conducted in all 36 states of the federation, children below the age of five in northern Nigeria and the sourthern states of Ebonyi, Delta, Benue and Bayelsa, are at risk of acute malnutrition, a condition that has led to stunted growth among Nigerian children under that age category.
Making this known in an interview with BusinessDay, Osa Isokpunwu, Deputy Director/Head of Nutrition, Federal Ministry of Health, said malnutrition, which is the insufficient, excessive/ imbalanced consumption of nutrients, is the leading cause of death among children under five years of age in the country.
Isokpunwu said cases of malnutrition are severe among children with low milk consumption and whose mothers have limited knowledge of its impact. He added that malnourished babies have a higher risk of dying in infancy and are likely to face lifelong cognitive challenges, leading to poor school performance and chronic irreversible health problems.
He explained that people suffer from under-nutrition which manifests in the form of wasting (low weight for height), stunting, (low height for age), underweight (low weight for age) or micronutrient deficiencies.
Making reference to the result of surveys from the Federal Ministry of Health, the Deputy Director said 41 percent of Nigerians are stunted, 14 percent suffer wasting, while another 23 percent are underweight, as a result of malnutrition.
“The North-West has the highest incidence of stunting with over 53 percent cases and 20 percent incidence of wasting. This is followed by the North-East, with 49 percent stunting and 22 percent wasting. The North- Central has 44 percent stunting and 9 percent wasting among the entire population. The South-East region has the lowest incidence of stunting with 22 percent, while the South-South has the lowest cases of wasting, with 7.5 percent of the population.
“Stunting is high in the North-West, North-East and North-Central, while wasting is high in the North-Central. Apart from Kwara and Kogi states, all designated northern states, including Benue, are on red alert with regard to malnutrition. States like Ebonyi, Delta and Bayelsa have high incidence of malnutrition. So it is not only the North that has the highest burden of malnutrition. The problem may lie in low level of knowledge on how to properly arrange a meal that satisfies all dietary needs of the body,” Isokpunwu added.
With adequate nutrition seen as the remedy to acute malnutrition, experts recommend regular consumption of milk. Low milk consumption is one of the factors contributing to malnutrition among children across the globe.