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Advocate Calls For Collaborative Action To Address Nigeria’s Urgent Malnutrition Crisis

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A nutrition advocate and senior special adviser to the Minister of Health and Social Welfare on strategic communication, stakeholder engagement, and advocacy, Chinedu Moghalu has called for collaborative action to address Nigeria’s urgent malnutrition crisis.

In an interview with Science Nigeria on Thursday in Abuja, Moghalu emphasised the need for a united effort to combat this severe issue affecting millions of children across the country.

Nigeria is currently facing a significant malnutrition crisis. According to the National Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS), approximately 37 per cent of children under five in Northern Nigeria are stunted, indicating chronic malnutrition, while seven percent suffer from wasting, an indicator of acute malnutrition.

Recent UNICEF reports highlight that about two million children suffer from severe acute malnutrition (SAM), with 40 percent of these cases concentrated in six states. Additionally, over six million children are moderately malnourished, and many women, especially those who are pregnant and lactating, suffer from micronutrient deficiencies. The projection that 26.5 million Nigerians will be food insecure in 2024 underscores the urgency of our response.

Moghalu stressed the critical importance of addressing malnutrition in the country. “With an estimated $912 million required annually to comprehensively scale up nutrition-specific interventions, the need for timely implementation and effective tracking is paramount. This ensures that resources reach those in need and achieve the desired impact,” he said.

Nigeria’s malnutrition crisis is driven by governance inefficiencies, poverty, insecurity, climate change, rapid population growth, and high dependency ratios. Poor feeding practices, cultural misconceptions about nutrition, and gender inequality exacerbate the issue. Inadequate healthcare infrastructure, weak social protection systems, and insecurity, especially in northern Nigeria, further contribute to food insecurity and displacement.

Under President Bola Tinubu’s ‘Renewed Hope’ agenda and the Nigeria Health Sector Renewal Initiative, the Nigerian government is addressing malnutrition through improved healthcare, food security, and economic stability. “Key actions include recent meetings on malnutrition, mobilising 1.3 million micronutrient supplements for pregnant women and approving over N12 billion for primary healthcare centres. Efforts also focus on revitalising healthcare in states like Kebbi, Katsina and Niger, with coordination from the National Primary Health Care Development Agency,” Moghalu said.

A key principle in the government’s approach is the equitable distribution of resources nationwide, ensuring all children have access to necessary nutrition support. “This approach prevents regional disparities and ensures a comprehensive national response to malnutrition,” he noted.

Addressing malnutrition in Nigeria requires a comprehensive “whole-of-government” and “whole-of-society” approach, involving coordinated efforts across various sectors. “Led by the Presidency, with key coordination from the Office of the Vice President, the strategy leverages the sector-wide approach (SWAp) and includes significant contributions from international agencies like UNICEF, MSF and the World Bank. A recent dialogue highlighted the need for state-level actions and local capacity building. The potential unlocking of $30 million from the World Bank’s ANRIN project, with a possible match from the Child Nutrition Fund, represents a crucial step forward,” Moghalu explained.

Ultimately, Moghalu emphasised that reducing malnutrition in the country would save lives, reduce suffering, and improve health outcomes across the nation. “The concerted effort of all stakeholders is essential in making this vision a reality,” he concluded.

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