Nigeria’s population is plagued by a malnutrition burden. Images of Nigerian children suffering from severe acute malnutrition are not uncommon on social and mainstream media channels. UNICEF reports that over two million Nigerian children under age five suffer from severe acute malnutrition. This places Nigeria as the country with the second highest number of stunted children in the world after India.
According to the National Health Demographic Survey conducted in 2018, the national prevalence of under-five stunting is 43.6%, significantly greater than developing countries’ average of 29%. The under-five wasting prevalence is 10.8%, also greater than developing countries’ average of 8.9%. And within Nigeria’s adult population, 49.8% of women of reproductive age have anaemia.
The adverse effects of malnutrition are experienced by individuals, households, and throughout the national macroeconomic arena. UNICEF estimates that malnutrition in Nigeria leads to an annual loss of 11% of GDP; amounting to billions in lost revenue through reduced economic productivity, absence from work due to illness, and money spent treating ailments. Furthermore, UNICEF reports that malnutrition is the cause of half of all annual deaths of children aged under five. There is also strong evidence that poor cognitive development among malnourished children leads to low educational and life outcomes, proving that malnutrition is not just a public health issue but also a significant socio-economic one.
The inimical effects of COVID-19 on Nigeria’s economy have pushed the country into a recession. Currently, food inflation is at its highest levels in five years, coupled with a devalued naira over the same period; this means that Nigerians are not only spending more on food than they did in 2016, but their naira is able to buy much less in volume, nutritional and calorific value. Punch