Malnutrition especially among children is a major challenge to health and human development.
Against this backdrop, the State Committee on Food and Nutrition (SCFN) has called on governments and relevant stakeholders to increase nutrition interventions at all levels. They made the call during the Committee’s quarter 1 and 2 meeting in Port Harcourt.
Speaking to National Network newspaper, the State Nutrition Officer, Mr Buduzhi Oguzor Gift said ensuring food security will combat malnutrition; help Nigeria children reach their full potential and advance economic development.
He noted that increased budgetary provisions and timely releases of budgeted funds, approval and domestication of both state strategic plan of action 2024-2028 and state policy on food and nutrition are expected to fast-track the implementation of nutrition and nutrition-related interventions in the state.
He also identified Exclusive Breast Feeding (EBF) protection through the extension of maternity leave to 6 months from the current 4 months and paternity leave of at least 2 working weeks including establishment of Creches in state and local government council secretariats and public offices as ways of improving nutrition interventions.
On the essence of the meeting, he disclosed that it was for the State Committee on Food and Nutrition (SCFN) to review the status of food and nutrition in the state with the view to promote food security in the 23 local government areas of the State.
He stressed the need for SCFN to review where the state is in nutrition activities in quarter 1and 2 so as to address key issues that pose potential challenges to implementation of activities in the state.
He further explained that the meeting will enable the committee to review the state policy on food and nutrition, and update the state strategic action plan on food and nutrition from 2024 to 2028, plan way forward and follow up process to ensure nutrition interventions are adequately planned, budgeted for, and implemented.
He asserted that without good nutrition, people’s mind and body cannot function well, adding that when that happens, the foundation of economic, social and cultural life of society is undermined.
Mr Oguzor who defined Malnutrition as a condition that occurs when people consistently do not consume or absorb the right amounts and types of food and essential nutrients said malnourished children have an increased risk of disability and premature death and are highly predisposed to infectious diseases.
“The three main indicators for malnutrition are stunting (when children are too short for their age), wasting (when children have low weights for their heights) and underweight (when children have low weights for their age).
Rivers State exclusive breastfeeding rate declined from 49.1% (MICS, 2016/17) to 26% (MICS, 2021). Data from NDHS, (2018) puts the stunting rate of Rivers State at 16.8%, underweight 7.4% and wasting 6.4% while children 6-59 months with minimum acceptable diet was 29.7% which keeps the state in danger position, he informed.
He chronicled the consequences of poor dietary practices as higher health care costs, Lower GDP, low earnings in adulthood, high child morbidity and mortality high malnutrition and stunted growth, poor cognitive development and low IQ regretting that despite the efforts made towards improving the health and nutritional status of the vulnerable population especially children, pregnant, lactating women, adolescents and elderly in the years back, they have not yielded the desired outcomes.