Civil Society Calls For Urgent Action To Address Malnutrition Among Women, Girls In Nigeria

malnutrition

The Civil Society Scaling up Nutrition in Nigeria (CS-SUNN) has called for urgent action to address malnutrition in all forms in Nigeria, particularly among women and girls.

Speaking at a media roundtable on promoting women’s and girls’ nutrition in Nigeria, the executive secretary of CS-SUNN, Mr. Sunday Okoronkwo defined women’s and girl’s nutrition as “meeting daily macro- and micro-nutrient requirements from a healthy diet that builds immunity and protects against disease and all forms of malnutrition”.

Okoronkwo highlighted the need for increased focus on the nutritional needs of non-pregnant/non-lactating women and adolescent girls, which has received little attention despite the government’s significant strides in advancing maternal and child nutrition. He pointed out that malnutrition has been recognized as a fundamental developmental issue with socio-economic consequences linked to poor women’s and girls’ nutrition.

The Global Nutrition Report 2022 Nigeria Country Profile indicates that only 56 per cent of women aged 15-49 have minimally adequate dietary diversity (DHS 2018). In Nigeria, an estimated two million children suffer from severe malnutrition, and it is the underlying cause of 45 per cent of all deaths of under-five children. Seven per cent of women of childbearing age in the country suffer from acute malnutrition and 10-20 per cent of Nigerian women are undernourished (UNICEF, 2020).

Okoronkwo emphasised that empowering women to have fair control over their income is crucial as evidence shows they are more likely to prioritize spending on nutritious foods, thereby improving access to adequate nutrition by the entire family. He called on civil society groups and other implementing partners to advocate and implement activities that promote women’s and girls’ nutrition in the country, as well as continue to hold the government accountable for best-practice recommendations and push for the domestication of policies that support healthy and sustainable diets for women and girls.

To tackle malnutrition among women and girls in Nigeria, the Women and Girls Nutrition project, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and executed by FHI Solutions and global partners, aims to collaborate with stakeholders and spearhead an Action Agenda that would prioritise policy and finance commitments for enhancing the nutrition of women and girls at local, regional, and global levels.

The project seeks to improve and sustain the access of these target groups to optimal nutrition by enhancing different empowerment strategies, hence the project goal “Women and Girls Empowered for optimal nutrition by ‘2028’”.

Okoronkwo explained that a study conducted by the World Bank from 2012-2013 revealed that increases in the empowerment of women are positively associated with household dietary diversity. In addition, a household that is female-biased tends to have higher significant improvement in their dietary intake.

The CS-SUNN and other relevant stakeholders have built a coalition that advocates for women’s and girls’ empowerment for optimal nutrition in the coming years. They emphasise that empowering women to have fair control over their income is crucial as evidence shows they are more likely to prioritize spending on nutritious foods, thereby improving access to adequate nutrition by the entire family. CS-SUNN calls for increased visibility on optimal nutrition for women and girls and its impeding factors as a strategy to improve women and girls’ empowerment for a healthier life and better support to the family.

In conclusion, sustainable development, poverty reduction and a healthier and more prosperous Nigeria are possible. The Women and Girls Nutrition project is a significant step towards realising this goal.

Racheal Abujah
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