Nigerians are seriously experiencing malnutrition in some parts of the country, a civil society group has alerted.
The rate of the scourge is far more alarming than the attention being paid to it, Beatrice Eluaka, the project director of CS-SUN, a Civil Society Organisation and member of the PACFaH coalition, warned in Kaduna on Tuesday.
Ms. Eluaka gave the warning at a workshop held to highlight focus areas where media reportage is lacking on health/nutrition challenges and funding gaps in Nigeria.
Ms. Eluaka noted that the Nigeria demographic and health survey (NDHS) 2013 reported the national prevalence of stunting at 37%, underweight 29%, and wasting 18% in children under five years old.
According to the survey, however, the worst hit regions in Nigeria for stunting are the northwest and northcentral which have 54.8% and 29.3% respectively.
Children in the two zones also suffer most wasting, with 27.1% in the northwest and 19.5% in northeast; as well as the most underweight with 30.8% recorded in the northeast and 47.4% in the northwest.
CS-SUN organised the three-day capacity building workshop and field visit for journalists from the print, mass and online media.
The event brought together journalists from across the country to brainstorm on how the mass media can be used as a platform for advocating scaling up of funding for nutrition by government at the national and state levels.
Nutrition officers of Nassarawa, Kaduna and Niger made presentations at the workshop on their various states’ responses to nutrition issues.
The Kaduna state representative, Jane Gwani, said the commitment by the state governor, Nasir El-Rufai, to counterpart funding with the UNICEF has led to more money being made available to address nutrition issues.
Her Niger state counterpart, Amina Isah, however, noted that her state has moved from medium burden to high burden state, which has made it a priority state for nutrition intervention in Nigeria.
Nasarawa State Nutrition Officer, Hajiya Amina, said her state had a standing committee on food and nutrition. She said the state government also had a specific budget line for nutrition, though no budgetary release had been made.
In his presentation, the programme manager of CS-SUN described the Federal Ministry of Health expenditure on nutrition as abysmal, citing an example of a paltry N25 million spent in 2012 and N1.9 billion in the 2017 proposed budget.
As part of the event, the journalists had a site visit to Community-based Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) and Out-Patient
Therapeutic (OTP) programme sites in Zaria LGA of Kaduna state to asses firsthand the malnutrition cases and the level of response from the state government with support from partners.
At the OTP site, clients were seen coming to receive the ready-to-use therapeutic foods (RUFT) for their children. The officer in charge of the site at Makama Abbas Primary Health Centre, Mariam Ibrahim, said they have between 10-20 new cases teveryday, while also noting that the state was committed to the provision of the supplements.
She however decried the seasonal fluctuation in the programme before the statutory eight weeks is complete. On the seasonal fluctuation, she said the number usually increases during farming season as the people plant whiled the number drastically drops during harvest.
She said since the facility does not have the capacity to admit severe cases, such were referred to a close by site that has the capacity.
In the course of the visit, a new case was brought in which was referred but the mother refused going, saying she needed permission from her husband who was not around although her three- year-old child was dying.
Ms. Mariam said such was a regular occurrence at the site.
According to an official, Nigeria would require $912 million over five years to mitigate malnutrition.