By Nike Adebowale
About 33 per cent of Nigerians will get out of extreme poverty if the country successfully tackles malnutrition, a nutrition expert, Bamidele Omotola, has said.
He said fighting malnutrition will improve the country economically.
Mr Omotola, who spoke at a media dialogue on child malnutrition in Yola, Adamawa State on Wednesday, said malnourished children have zero potential to contribute to the economy.
The media dialogue, organised by United Nations Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and sponsored by the Department for International Development (DFID), is tagged “Investing in child malnutrition for the future.”
Malnutrition is a condition that occurs when people consistently do not consume or absorb the right amounts and types of food and essential nutrients. Globally, it contributes to nearly half of all child deaths — that is more than three million children each year.
Mr Omotola said the fight against malnutrition is imperative for Nigeria because any economy where 50 per cent of the children are stunted or wasted is doomed.
“If Nigeria overcomes the menace of malnutrition, 33 per cent of poor people will get out of extreme poverty and give their own children a better chance at life,” Mr Omotola said.
He said investing in children’s nutrition offers some of the greatest opportunities for social and economic change in Africa.
“For every dollar invested in reducing stunting among children in Africa, there’s a return on investment of $16 while also preventing nearly half of child mortality and increasing school attainment by at least one year.”
He also called for investment to ensure food security and end extreme hunger by 2030, the second goal of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Mr Omotola noted that although malnutrition is prevalent in the northeast, there are pockets of malnutrition in various states across Nigeria.
He said one in every six children in the three states affected by insurgency is suffering from severe acute malnutrition.
These states are Adamawa, Yobe and Borno.
In his opening remarks, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said addressing nutrition is one of the ways the sustainable development goals can be achieved.
Represented by the Head of Child Rights Information Bureau of the Ministry of Information, Olumide Osanyinpeju, he called for more investment in nutrition to help reduce the negative trend of malnutrition.
The Nutrition Officer, UNICEF Bauchi, Martin Jackson, highlighted the steps that have been taken thus far by the body with the support of DFID to change the situation in the region.
He said he was impressed by the different programmes being championed by UNICEF, which he said has contributed significantly to the changes being experienced in the region.