41 percent of Nigerian children stunted on account of malnutrition – FMH
At least 41 percent of Nigerian children under age five suffer stunted growth as a result of malnutrition, according to the Federal Ministry of Health. The ministry said that from surveys conducted in all 36 states of the federation, children below the age of five in northern Nigeria and the sourthern states of Ebonyi, Delta, Benue and Bayelsa, are at risk of acute malnutrition, a condition that has led to stunted growth among Nigerian children under that age category.
Making this known in an interview with BusinessDay, Osa Isokpunwu, Deputy Director/Head of Nutrition, Federal Ministry of Health, said malnutrition, which is the insufficient, excessive/ imbalanced consumption of nutrients, is the leading cause of death among children under five years of age in the country.
Isokpunwu said cases of malnutrition are severe among children with low milk consumption and whose mothers have limited knowledge of its impact. He added that malnourished babies have a higher risk of dying in infancy and are likely to face lifelong cognitive challenges, leading to poor school performance and chronic irreversible health problems.
He explained that people suffer from under-nutrition which manifests in the form of wasting (low weight for height), stunting, (low height for age), underweight (low weight for age) or micronutrient deficiencies.
Making reference to the result of surveys from the Federal Ministry of Health, the Deputy Director said 41 percent of Nigerians are stunted, 14 percent suffer wasting, while another 23 percent are underweight, as a result of malnutrition.
“The North-West has the highest incidence of stunting with over 53 percent cases and 20 percent incidence of wasting. This is followed by the North-East, with 49 percent stunting and 22 percent wasting. The North- Central has 44 percent stunting and 9 percent wasting among the entire population. The South-East region has the lowest incidence of stunting with 22 percent, while the South-South has the lowest cases of wasting, with 7.5 percent of the population.
“Stunting is high in the North-West, North-East and North-Central, while wasting is high in the North-Central. Apart from Kwara and Kogi states, all designated northern states, including Benue, are on red alert with regard to malnutrition. States like Ebonyi, Delta and Bayelsa have high incidence of malnutrition. So it is not only the North that has the highest burden of malnutrition. The problem may lie in low level of knowledge on how to properly arrange a meal that satisfies all dietary needs of the body,” Isokpunwu added.
With adequate nutrition seen as the remedy to acute malnutrition, experts recommend regular consumption of milk. Low milk consumption is one of the factors contributing to malnutrition among children across the globe.
BusinessDay findings show that Nigeria ranked as one of the poorest in terms of per capita milk consumption. While the country’s per capita milk consumption stands at 8kg per annum, the Netherlands records a whopping 320kg per capita per annum.
Ngozi Nnam, President, Nutrition Society of Nigeria (NSN), explained that milk is nature’s most complete food, as it has an exceptionally good protein conent that is readily digestible and biologically available.
“It promotes cardiovascular health because of its rich potassium, calcium and riboflavin contents. Milk helps build immunity because of its rich vitamin A content. With malnutrition already stunting the growth of Nigerian children, initiatives such regular milk consumption are necessary to restore and promote physical and mental wellbeing,” Nnam observed.
Consumers appear to increasingly demand products that combine nutrition with newer tastes, thus milk products which offer this combination are seeing strong growth, according to Euromonitor International Ltd, a
London-based market intelligence firm.
As marketing activities by producers through advertising, discounts and promotional sales and the shift of emphasis to smaller packaging units by manufacturers has aided the growth of drinking milk products in 2012, poor and price-sensitive consumers who previously considered such products a luxury are forming a high percentage of the consumer base.
“Drinking milk products is expected to grow at a constant value Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 3% over the forecast period. The economy is expected to see strong growth over the forecast period with disposable income expected to increase, thereby boosting consumer confidence resulting in increased consumption of drinking milk products. Producers are also expected to spur growth with new product launches over the forecast period, pushed with strong marketing activities,” Euromonitor added.
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