Monday, October 22, 2012

22 million malnourished in Nigeria, others

OVER 22 million people, including children suffer Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM), moderate acute malnutrition, or are at the risk of malnutrition in eight countries in the Sahel, including northern Nigeria.

The eight affected countries, according to Mr. Niyi Oyedokun, an expert in food security and nutrition with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) D. Field Office, covering 10 northern states, are Chad, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Northern Senegal, Northern Cameroun, and Northern Nigeria.

Oyedokun gave the projected figures of persons at the risk of malnutrition as 18.7 million; children at risk of Severe Acute Malnutrition 1.1 million, and children at the risk of moderate acute malnutrition three million.

At an advocacy and sensitisation meeting in Kano with the print media from the 10 DFO states, Oyedokun said surveys also indicated elevated levels of acute malnutrition in Northern Nigeria, underscoring a crisis situation in the states in the Sahelian belt.

He told participants at the meeting that the prevalence of Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) was found between five and 15 per cent in all surveys across all states, saying GAM beyond 10 per cent is regarded as an emergency situation.

According to Oyedokun, malnutrition is a condition represented by measures of thinness or bilateral edema, and represents current nutritional status, explaining that children with severe acute malnutrition are nine times likely to die from any causes than those who are not.

The officer, who noted that severe acute malnutrition without intervention has up to 60 per cent mortality risk, attributed the causes and aggravation for nutrition crisis in the Sahel to scarce rain in 2011 that resulted in poor harvest, and displacement of people and disruption of food production due to conflicts and violence, among others.

According to Oyedokun, it is recommended in response to nutritional crisis the use of proven high impact and cost effective interventions referred to as the essential nutrition actions.

The focus, according to him, is on promotion of infant and young child feeding and essential micronutrients to prevent occurrence of malnutrition in children with cases of acute malnutrition.

He therefore called for efforts towards the adoption of a national nutrition policy as amended in 2002, and the development of state nutrition annual work plans in line with the national plan of action.

The paper recommended effective coordination of nutrition interventions through the establishment of statutory state committees on food and nutrition as provided in the national nutrition policy.

It also called for the creation of separate and adequate budget line for nutrition in the various sectors, as well as the provision of adequate human resources for integrated service provision, especially at the community-based management of acute malnutrition (CMAM) 216 sites in seven states of the DFO.

Others are the promotion of community participation and change of socio-cultural norms and habits inhibiting good nutrition practices.

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