The Federal Government on Tuesday said the country was faced with a silent national emergency-malnutrition.
According to the government, Nigeria is home to the third largest number of chronically undernourished children globally, adding that in order to address this development, a budget line would be created for food and nutrition in the relevant ministries, departments and agencies at all levels.
Speaking at the commemoration of the 2017 Nutrition Week in Abuja, the Minister of State, Ministry of Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, declared that thousands of children would die annually if nothing significant was done to address the issue of malnutrition.
Ahmed said, “We are gathered here today to talk around a silent national emergency – malnutrition. Nigeria is home to the third largest number of chronically undernourished children globally, with about 2.5 million children under five years affected by Severe Acute Malnutrition.
“If nothing is done, one in five (500,000) children will die annually (global nutrition report, NDHS 2013 report). Malnourished children tend to have lower Intelligent Quotient and impaired cognitive ability with resultant negative effect on their performance in school and productivity in later life.”
She said no developmental programme was complete without a package for nutrition improvement, adding that under constitutional democracy, the right to food and nutrition was the most important right of all rights.
Ahmed stated that evidence had shown that investments in nutrition prevents undernutrition, builds human capital, boost shared prosperity and improves health outcomes.
She said, “Returns from programmes for improving nutrition far outweigh their costs while delay/failure in addressing malnutrition attracts disproportionately high costs in terms of higher budget outlay as well as lost GDP. This makes investment in nutrition imperative in the much desired economic recovery and growth in the country as encapsulated in the ERGP 2017-2020.”
According to her, the revised National Policy on Food and Nutrition ,which was inaugurated as a 10-year blueprint during the 2016 Nutrition Wee, had been disseminated nationwide as part of the strategy for ensuring its smooth implementation.
“It is reported that almost all the states have been able to domesticate the policy and have gone ahead to develop their specific plan of action. This is heart-warming as it demonstrates ownership across the states of the federation,” Ahmed added.
She, however, noted that to avoid being caught up in the euphoria of celebrating mediocrity, the ministry came up with the draft implementation plan for the policy which will soon be finalized.