The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) said 49 per cent of children under the age of five in Nigeria do not grow well as they are either stunted, wasted or overweight. UNICEF Nigeria said this in a statement and added that malnutrition remains a major public health and development concern. It said breastfeeding can save lives but regretted that only 27 per cent of children under six months of age were exclusively breastfed and an increasing number of children were 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.” UNICEF warned that poor eating and feeding practices started from the earliest days of children’s life put them at risk of poor brain development, weak learning, low immunity, increased infections and, in many cases death. It said the malnutrition level in the country should be tackled and appealed to government, private sector, donors, parents, families and businesses to help children grow healthy.
It said that should be done by investing more resources in interventions aimed at preventing malnutrition among young children and supporting treatment when prevention fails, supporting nursing mothers to adequately feed and care for their children. It also advocated empowering of families, children and young people to enable them to “demand nutritious food, including improving nutrition education and using proven legislation such as sugar taxes to reduce demand for unhealthy foods.” UNICEF said healthy food environments for children and adolescents should be built by using proven approaches such as accurate and easy-to-understand labelling and stronger controls on marketing of unhealthy foods. It also said supportive systems on health, water, sanitation, education and social protection should be mobilised to scale up nutrition results for all children.