UNICEF’s Move To Tackle Malnutrition in Delta

THE pledge of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to partner the Delta State Government, with a view to tackling the incidence of malnutrition is a major intervention that would boost nutrition and bolster the health of mostly children who suffer from the disease. It will, indeed, benefit Delta State where the state government has been unrelenting in its quest to enhance the wellbeing of the citizenry.
The agency’s commitment was conveyed by its Chief Field Officer incharge of Rivers State, Mr. Wilbroad Ngambi, at a one-day stakeholders’ meeting attended by civil commissioners, members of the state House of Assembly and other officials, whose jobs relate to maternal, infant and young children nutrition and a collaborative effort of the Delta State Government and the UN’s organ.
Ngambi was not only unequivocal in his assurance of UNICEF’s willingness to closely work with the state government to frontally address the issue, but also stated that the envisaged assistance of his organisation would, in five years, considerably address the ugly scenario. He, however, commended the state government for its resolve to deal with the issue of malnutrition.
The proposed collaborative engagement of the agency with the state government is a welcome decision that would enrich the efforts of government’s at finding lasting solution to the problem of malnutrition. It is also timely, especially at this point in time that the Okowa administration has been entreating well-meaning individuals and corporate organisations to partner it as it explores ways to make living more meaningful for Deltans.
Without doubt, malnutrition is one of the social issues in Nigeria and other parts of the developing world. It has persisted due to the ravaging poverty in countries where it is mostly reported. Apart from war situations and protracted famine, the lack of money or sheer ignorance of what constitutes adequate diet or a combination of both account for the persistence of this social problem. This explains why the most vulnerable group of people in Nigeria are found in the rural areas and urban slums, in addition to the emergency settlements of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).
It is, indeed, a worrisome development which portends danger for the nation’s long–term health. We believe that a nation with a sizeable percentage of malnourished children may be doomed in the future unless serious remedial steps are taken to reverse the ugly trend. For instance, most of the surveys carried out in the six geo-political zones of Nigeria often produced horrifying reports of national prevalence of stunted growth, under-weight and wasting in children under five years of age.
It is a matter of concern that the incidence is getting worse as more Nigerians are enmeshed in the poverty net. The fact that, by estimation, over 70 per cent of Nigerians are living below poverty line means that more and more persons will continually be numbered among those deemed malnourished. This is evident in the agency’s report in August, which indicated that not less than 10 million Nigerian children or 13 per cent of the population of children in the country were at the risk of becoming mentally deformed in adulthood, as a result of nutrient deprivations traceable to lack of iodine in the diet.
A renowned Professor of Nutrition and former President, Nutrition Society of Nigeria, Prof. Babatunde Oguntona, even urged Nigerians to imagine the implication of having 13 per cent of mentally deformed children becoming parliamentarians in future. “Inadequate iodine in our food is a serious threat. You can’t talk of development when you ignore the issue of nutrition status of your people,” said Oguntona at a recent nutrition symposium on “Malnutrition, Child Development and the Media” held in Lagos.
Of course, the pathway to a sustainable nutrition, therefore, lies with the pooling of resources and occasional interventionist programmes such as the type being proposed by UNICEF. We expect other organisations to take a cue from the noble initiative of UNICEF to partner with the Delta State Government. While we appreciate UNICEF’s initiative, it is, however, our contention that an aggressive campaign on malnutrition, with emphasis on the needfulness of iodine in our diets, should be commissioned by the state government and widely broadcast in the mass media, especially on radio and television.
We welcome UNICEF’s decision to work in tandem with Delta State to improve and re-condition the lives of our people on the path of sustainable nutrition, to enable them live a healthier, lively life. We call for more varied partnerships envisaged to enrich Delta State and its citizenry.