The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Wednesday raised concerns over an alarmingly high number of children suffering the consequences of poor diets worldwide, including Nigeria.
UNICEF raised concerns following its new report on children, food and nutrition, while commemorating the World Food Day marked annually on Oct. 16.
According to a statement signed by UNICEF’S Communications Specialist, Mr Geoffrey Njoku, the report provides the most comprehensive assessment yet of 21st-century child malnutrition in all its forms.
“It describes a triple burden of malnutrition: Undernutrition, hidden hunger caused by a lack of essential nutrients, and overweight among children under the age of five, noting that around the world:
“149 million children are stunted, or too short for their age, including 13.1 million children in Nigeria; 50 million children are wasted, or too thin for their height, including 2.9 million children in Nigeria.
“The State of the World’s Children 2019: Children, food and nutrition find that at least one in under five or 200 million is either undernourished or overweight.
“Almost two in three children between six months and two years of age are not fed food that supports their rapidly growing bodies and brains.
“This puts them at risk of poor brain development, weak learning, low immunity, increased infections and, in many cases, death,” UNICEF said.
According to UNICEF, the report warns that poor eating and feeding practices start from the earliest days of a child’s life.
The organization said that breastfeeding could save lives, however, in Nigeria, only 27 percent of children under six months of age were exclusively breastfed and an increasing number of children were fed infant formula.
“In Nigeria, malnutrition remains a major public health and development concern; 49 percent of children under five years of age are not growing well; they are either stunted, wasted or overweight.
“This is the second-highest proportion after the Democratic Republic of Congo in the West and Central Africa region.
“This is partly because 34 percent of children between six months and two years of age are fed food that is not rich and diversified enough to ensure optimal growth,” it said.
UNICEF said that addressing malnutrition would require stakeholders investing more resources in interventions aimed at preventing malnutrition among young children and supporting treatment when prevention fails.
The organisation also urged stakeholders to support nursing mothers to adequately feed and care for their children.
“Also, empowering families, children and young people to demand nutritious food, including by improving nutrition education and using proven legislation such as sugar taxes to reduce demand for unhealthy foods.
“Mobilising supportive systems including health, water and sanitation, education and social protection to scale up nutrition results for all children,” UNICEF said.