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Malnutrition in Nigeria: Issues, Impact and Solutions

“The image around malnutrition reflects hunger-stricken individuals but it is important to note that obesity can also be caused by malnutrition. Malnutrition goes beyond not getting enough food but also not getting the right sort of food needed to meet the daily nutritional requirements. Millions of children around the world are suffering from malnutrition, making it a global issue. The story is similar in Nigeria.”


Recent reports indicate that millions of children in Nigeria especially in the North East are grossly malnourished. The reason can be attributed to several factors including the high poverty rate and the activities of the dreaded terrorist sect Boko Haram which has led to the destruction of lives, crops and properties.



According to the World Food Program, Malnutrition is when a person is not getting enough food or the right sort of food with the latter being the most important as proper amounts of micronutrients; vitamins and minerals are needed to meet daily nutritional requirements.Estimatesby the Global Nutrition report 2016 reveal that, out of 667 million children under age 5 worldwide, 159 million are stunted (short for their age), 50 million are wasted (do not weigh enough for their height) and 41 million are overweight due to malnutrition.

Malnutrition affects many aspects of human lives including growth and development. Itis closely linked with diet-related non-communicable diseases such as heart diseases, stroke, diabetes and cancer; and impedes economic growth which can lead to poverty. Malnutrition also affects the development of a child’s brain and intelligent quotient and limits their ability to learn and become productive citizens during their adult life. The World Food Program describes the first 2 years of a child as a “window of opportunity” as improper nutrition can lead to an irreversible damage in the child’s life.

A UNICEF report stated that malnutrition is a violation of a child’s right to survival and development. Florence Oni, Nutrition Specialist with UNICEF says that a reduction of malnutrition in children could decrease child mortality in Nigeria by 20 percent. “Children can live longer, healthier lives and reach their full potentials if they are well nourished. Therefore, it is essential to not just talk about its facts and figures, but begin to take actions to eradicate malnutrition in Nigeria”, she said.

The Head of Nutrition at the Federal Ministry of Health,Dr. Chris Isokpunwu, attributed overpopulation, conflict, poverty and ignorance of healthy eating habits, among others as some of the factors surrounding malnutrition. He further stated that lack of adequate breastfeeding can also expose a child to malnutrition.

The Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey 2013,shows that about 100 children under the age of 5 die every hour due to malnutrition.This amounts to about 1 million deaths of children below 5 in a year in Nigeria.

The world is becoming more aware of the impact of malnutrition and global efforts are increasingly concentrating on addressing malnutrition and increasing food security. One of such effort is evident in the sustainable development goals (SDGs)

Goal 2 of the SDGs aim to address malnutrition through action plans geared towards ending hunger, achieving food security, improving nutrition, and promoting sustainable agriculture. At least 12 of the 17 SDGs contain indicators that track important nutrition inputs. They include: Gender equality, Good health, hunger and nutrition, poverty, improved cities, reduced inequality, WASH, Education, Peace and Justice, Growth and employment, sustainable consumption and production and global partnerships.

In the light of this and now more than ever, there is the need for all stakeholders includingdevelopment partners and relevant government agencies to make high-impact commitment to end malnutrition. The World Food Programhas suggested two ways of eliminating malnutrition which involves sustaining the quality and quantity of food a person eats (Agriculture); andensuring adequate health care and a healthy environment (Health). Other ways includes; optimal breastfeeding, women empowerment and family planning.

The commitment to achieve this goal must be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound) according to the 2016 Global nutrition report. Therefore, it was imperative for the UNGA to have adopted a resolution proclaiming the UN Decade of Action on nutrition from 2016 to 2025 to ensure more sustainable diets. Nigeria is also making significant strides through the recently launched National policy on food and nutrition.

Theminister of national budget and planning, Sen. Udoma Udo Udoma, opined that through theimplementation of the policy on food and nutrition, the stunting growth rate among children of below five years will reduce from 37% in 2013 to 18% by 2025. This is a commendable effort to end malnutrition in Nigeria.


About the Author

Jolaoluwa Aina is a strong advocate for the Sustainable Development Goals. She is from Nigeria and currently volunteers as a Communications Assistant for Active Voices and is committed to creating a better world for young people especially women and girls in Nigeria. She tweets @jolaoluwa_A


Published 30 January 2017




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