Musing With AFOLABI GAMBARI ” Email

To all Nigerians, the major happenings today are the sudden increase in the petrol pump price and a tariff on electricity. The attack and counter-attack between the duo of former president Olusegun Obasanjo and Nobel laureate Prof. Wole Soyinka on one side and the federal government on another side over an accusation that the Muhammadu Buhari administration has divided Nigerians more than ever would also take prominence. But all these pertain only to present. The future remains as gloomy as ever.

To be sure, the government has its priorities that it must meet at one time or another, ranging from political to economic and environmental. Yet, there is no denying the fact that priority for the future must occupy a prime spot.

From the foregoing, therefore, it is imperative to seek reasons on why the government has paid lip service to the child malnutrition that has ravaged the country, leaving over 2.5million children in great risk, especially as it puts the collective future of Nigeria in a precarious situation.

Nutrition specialists have at one point or another expressed grave concern over the government’s attitude to the malnutrition scourge with prevalence in the insurgency-ravaged northeastern part of the country, a situation they have described also as precarious.

Insurgent attacks in the North East, particularly in the Borno area, have left many children afflicted by malnutrition in acute danger. This is worsened by the fact that the attacks can just occur at any time. The unsafe nature of the area has also necessitated an increase in the difficulty of reaching out easily to the affected who would need food and medication and unless the government does something urgent about this trend, the mortality rate of malnourished children would sky-rocket in the near future. To add this to the effects of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic is enough to get government and other stakeholders working hard at averting the looming human disaster. 

The ten-year insurgency in the zone is a major contributor to the pathetic situation that the children have found themselves, and there is little or nothing that the parents can do to ameliorate the condition. It is almost as if what the insurgents need is basically the same that the children need, rendering whatever measures taken by the government to curb the menace fruitless.

A UNICEF estimate in 2019 revealed that over 10million Nigerian children have been rendered stunted as the malnutrition has spared no zone in the country. Interestingly, the prevalence is even in the North West as depicted by UNICEF figure which puts it at a staggering 50.8 per cent with North East following closely at 42.8 per cent, North Central 29.7 per cent, South West 20.8 per cent, South-South 20.4 per cent and South-East trailing the rest at 17.2 per cent.

Inadequacy of funds and other facility has also posed a formidable threat to tackling the scourge. About 500,000 children and over one million women need to be reached for supplementary food through only 650 stabilisation centres created by the UNICEF, a situation considered as a serious shortfall.

Nonetheless, there is a flicker of hope sustained by the hard work of personnel involved in the fight against the malaise.

Through the efforts of UNICEF, field workers have embarked on strategic activities that have resulted in building capacity of the health care providers in the affected areas, strengthening capacity for supply chain management, gathering of data and entrenching advocacy to leverage local resources, among others. The target is aimed at reducing the child mortality rate while ensuring that more funds are expended on relevant infrastructure.

By and large, however, the nutrition of Nigerian children is too vital to be left to government alone. For a fact, more than $100million is needed by the government to adequately redress especially the situation in the North-East while UNICEF itself requires over $1billion to address child malnutrition in Nigeria, despite the agency’s many other commitments that require financing.

In the short term, the government needs to re-order its priorities with a view to making a needed impact in intervention efforts on child malnutrition. Above all, a social movement is urgently required whereby every segment of the society will be involved for optimum result, especially as the collective future of Nigeria is at stake, if not in danger.

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