Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, on Monday disclosed that about 2.5 million children under the age of five years might be in danger of being afflicted by severe acute malnutrition in Nigeria.
Speaking at the flag-off the 2018 Nutrition Week in Abuja, the minister said the situation was quite worrisome and called for emergency measures to arrest the trend.
The minister who was represented by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Mr Olajide Olawale, said this year’s theme: “Nutrition: An Emergency”, was chosen to draw attention to the urgent measures that needed to be taken by all relevant stakeholders in combating malnutrition.
“It is important to combat Malnutrition, because as I indicated earlier, it can cause death in young children, particularly those under five years of age,” he added.
A statement by the Minister’s Special Media Adviser Mr Akpandem James said the Nutrition Week “is aimed at increasing awareness on the dangers posed by malnutrition and serve as a platform for mobilizing stakeholders towards addressing the scourge in the country”.
According to the statement “state of Nigeria’s food and nutrition is of utmost interest to the Government at all levels because if the situation is not attended to, malnutrition which is sometimes referred to as “the Silent Killer”, could lead to the death of young children”.
“Even those who survive could end up with lower Intelligence Quotient (IQ) and impaired cognitive ability with resultant negative effects on their performance in school and productivity in later life”, it added.
The annual observation of the Nutrition Week, he noted, has been helping to create awareness regarding the importance of food and nutrition on child survival and its impact on development, productivity, economic growth and national development.
Previous editions have seen the launching and dissemination of a Revised National Policy on Food and Nutrition and the maiden edition of the Nigeria Nutrition Newsletter as well as the investiture of the wives of the President and State Governors as Nutrition ambassadors for the country and States respectively.
“This has not only helped to underscore the importance the Government places on the campaign against malnutrition but also to mobilise support from State and Local Governments for the campaign”, he explained.
The Minister pointed out that Investment in nutrition prevents under nutrition, builds human capital, boosts shared prosperity and improves health outcome.
“Returns from programmes geared towards improving nutrition generally outweigh their ultimate costs while delay/failure in addressing malnutrition has high costs in terms of reduced productivity and, sometimes, higher budget outlay in addressing the consequences…”Udoma stated.
This, he stressed, makes investment in nutrition worthwhile; and it is for this reason that the Ministry has created a dedicated budget line for nutrition. “We are also suggesting that other relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies at all levels should also do the same”.
While acknowledging that the relevant bodies have all been playing their roles in the fight against malnutrition, the Minister emphasised that it has become imperative that those efforts be intensified to ensure the attainment of desired results.
He observed that the coming together of stakeholders on the platform this year was further proof of their collective commitment to ensure optimal nutritional status for all Nigerians.
He commended all concerned including Development Partners who have been supportive in championing the fight against malnutrition and its associated problems in the country.