By Hassan Zaggi
The United Nation Children Fund (UNICEF) Nutrition Specialist in Borno State, Ifeanyi Maduanisi has advocated for what he described as multisectoral approach to combat child malnutrition in the north eastern states of Nigeria.
He made the call at a three day media dialogue on children undernutrition in Maiduguri.
The dialogue was put together by the UNICEF in partnership with the Child Right Burueau of the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture.
He, however, revealed there are cloudy indications that the child malnutrition situation in the north east is not improving.
“I am advocating for multisectoral kind of planning to combat child malnutrition in such a way that both food security, livelihood, nutrition section, health, water sanitation and hygiene are done together to give a synergistic impact,” he stressed.
According to Ifeanyi, apart from the general insecurity in the north east, socio cultural believe is another driver that fuels malnutrition in children in the north east.
“Part of the drivers of the malnutrition we have in the north east aside of the conflict and the attendant consequences like displacement, loss of livelihood, destruction of infrastructure and basic services, there is issue of socio-cultural believe and behaviours.
“These things take time to address. You don’t change these behaviours overnight.
“But it becomes aggravated when there is no environment for people to adopt good behavior.
“For example, when you go to displaced people and you are telling the how to imbibe on proper feeding practices for their children to grow healthy and the household does not have access to food.
“So what do they use to diversify. Apart from the fact that behavior change is difficult, there are key enablers for people to change their behavior that they don’t have access to. For example food insecurity. “
On the level of improvement of the malnutrition situatin in the north east, he said: “The data we are seeing from different surveillance and analysis, it is actually indicating that the malnutrition situation is not actually improving. “But that does not means that we have not had gains.
“In 2016 to around 2018, there were some gains, but those gains were not sustained. It was reversed from 2019 to date.”
On his part, the UNICEF Chief of Field Officer in Borno State, Samuel Sesay, expressed concern that malnutrition is a threat to child survival in the north east.
While focusing on Borno, Adamawa and Yobe, the UNICEF official said: “There is no sugar coating it- malnutrition is the underlining cause of nearly half of all deaths in under-five children globally and it is currently the biggest threat to child survival and development in northeast Nigeria.
“Households in the region are experiencing unprecedented levels of food crisis and hunger. Household food insecurity, poor infant and young child feeding and care practices, as well as poor feeding environment, hygiene, and health services have been identified as the underlying causes of undernutrition in children.
“In North-East Nigeria, however,, conflict, multiple displacements, destruction of sources of livelihood for households, destruction of basic infrastructures and services, climate change, and the COVID-19 pandemic are peculiar contributors to the growing number of children affected by undernutrition.
“The importance of good nutrition on children’s development is enormous, with far-reaching impact on child education, health, adult earning power, individual and family finance as well as the country’s economy. Ensuring good nutrition in children helps families and is a cheaper route to nation-building.”