Nigeria’s malnutrition rate rises as food prices spike

Surging food prices have been identified as one of the major drivers of malnutrition in Africa’s most populous country, according to a recent survey by SBM Intelligence.

The survey conducted in 10 states across the country – Abuja, Anambra, Bayelsa, Delta, Edo, Imo, Kogi, Lagos, Rivers, and Sokoto, confirmed the economic situation, especially the increase in prices of food items has made the situation worse.

“The average Northerner does not care so much about the food he eats or whether the food is a balanced diet. They just make sure there is something in their stomach.

They do not care if the food given to the children is balanced as well,” one of the respondents in Sokoto said.

Another interviewee, a teacher in Port Harcourt said that she observed that her students have been coming to school with reduced rations of food and snacks.

“Some don’t even come with food or snacks at times, and the food that some of the poorer children bring to school does not look nutritious.”

She noted that the poor kids she teaches have been losing weight lately.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, food inflation rose year-on-year by 20.6 percent in June 2022, the highest in 11 months when compared to 19.5 percent in the previous month.

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The World Bank predicts that Nigeria’s inflation is likely to push an additional one million Nigerians into poverty by the end of 2022, on top of the six million Nigerians that were already predicted to fall into poverty this year.

Africa’s most populous country has the second highest burden of stunted children in the world, with a national prevalence rate of 32 percent of children under five, according to data from the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund.

UNICEF also estimated that 2 million children in Nigeria suffer from severe acute malnutrition (SAM), but only two out of every 10 children affected are currently reached with treatment.

Analysts at SBM stated that from the interviews conducted it is clear that many Nigerians are devising several coping strategies to deal with the constant increases in food prices.

“For many, their income levels have remained the same, hence the purchasing power of their income has largely been eroded by the continuous price hikes.

“The result of this is that more people are slipping below the poverty line. Not only that, many are compromising their health as they choose food quantity and availability over quality and necessary dietary requirements,” they added.

A staff member of the state university in Edo said that he currently has challenges feeding his family as he has not been paid for seven months. According to him, some of his colleagues are suffering the same fate.

“So why will you not see children with malnutrition when there is not sufficient money for a balanced diet?” he asked.

To combat the rising food prices, the report recommends that it is important that the federal government tackles insecurity while also boosting domestic food production.

“The government needs to assist states that are rich in producing certain major agricultural products. All concerned actors should ease the supply chain to avoid unnecessary bottlenecks involved in distribution and supply of some food items.”

“Agencies in charge should also check price control and hoarding to ensure that producers, wholesalers, and retailers do not exploit the masses in the name of food shortage,” it concluded.

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