Nigeria ranks second after the Democratic Republic of Congo in the West and Central Africa region on malnutrition among children, a new report on children, food and nutrition by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has shown. The report explained that 49 per cent of Nigerian children under five years of age are not growing well, stunted, wasted or overweight. It attributed this partly to the fact that 34 per cent of children between six months and two years of age are fed food not rich and diversified enough to ensure optimal growth. The report further revealed that under nutrition is a major concern as it is a hidden hunger caused by a lack of essential nutrients and overweight among children under the age of five. Around the world, 149 million children are stunted, or too short for their age, while a staggering number of 13.1 million children in Nigeria are affected. It noted that although 50 million children are wasted or too thin for their height, the number of affected children in Nigeria stands at 2.9 million.
Though breastfeeding can save lives, for example, in Nigeria, only 27 per cent of children under six months of age are exclusively breastfed and an increasing number of children are fed infant formula. This means many Nigerian children are missing out on the life-saving benefits of breast milk which is a baby’s first vaccine and offers the best possible nutrition at the start of life.
As children begin transitioning to soft or solid foods around the six-month mark, too many are introduced to the wrong kind of diet, according to the report. As children grow older, their exposure to unhealthy food becomes alarming, driven largely by inappropriate marketing and advertising, the abundance of ultra-processed foods in cities but also in remote areas, and increasing access to fast food and highly sweetened beverages. The report also noted that climate-related disasters cause severe food crises. Drought, for example, is responsible for 80 per cent of damage and losses in agriculture globally, dramatically altering what food is available to children and families, as well as the quality and price of that food; Nigeria is also affected by climate change. The Nation