The National Stadium, now Moshood Abiola Stadium in Abuja has a 60,000-sitting capacity. Whenever the facility is filled to full capacity by people, it is not only easily noticed but referred to or tagged ‘ocean of humanity’ which is just a one-off fill.
Now, imagine how it will look when the filled stadium is reproduced to 50 in number to accommodate 3 million people. It means that a large expanse of land in Abuja will have to go, to adequately contain the number. This scenario, I believe will assist greatly to humanely feel the estimated 3 million children in Nigeria according to statistics facing acute wasting.
Possibly, many people have never heard of wasting. Be that as it may, wasting is one of the underlying causes of preventable deaths in young children. Wasting is also known as ‘severe acute malnutrition’. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), some of its physical characteristics are ‘low weight-for-height’; low height for age’, and ‘low weight for age’.
It often indicates recent and severe weight loss, and usually occurs when a person has not had food of adequate quality and quantity and/or they have had frequent or prolonged illnesses. These may give insights on the undesirable body growth and development in height, weight including overweight and underweight. By its causes, it is obvious that a high number of children will be victims on account of ignorance, neglect and poverty in the country if adequate interventions are not urgently invoked.
According to the National Nutrition and Health Survey (2018), National Population Commission 2022 estimates (2020), Nutrition and Food Security Surveillance Round-10 in BAY states (2021), an acronym for Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states, and Rapid SMART Survey (Standardized Monitoring and Assessment of Relief and Transitions) in North West (2021), “most of the burden of malnutrition, for both stunting and wasting lies in the north – both the east and the west where 1 in 2 children is stunted.
Of the estimated 14 million children who are stunted in Nigeria, 7 million are in the North West. And similarly, of the estimated 3 million children wasted, 1 million are in the North West” . This record certainly highlights the need to up the game in the North West. Although the rate is higher in the said area, it is not zero percent in other regions and states, and therefore, they should not be overlooked in a rescue plan.
A Nutrition Officer at the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, Nkeiru Enwelum during a media dialogue in Port Harcourt recently, bemoaned the repercussions of neglect to nutrition in the society vis-à-vis dangerous effects to the individuals, population at large and also the economy. Enwelum meticulously, categorically gave insights on the needed responses towards salvaging the predicaments as well as the target partnering sectors in government.
“Wasting and malnutrition in general negatively affects the economy because at the individual level, children who are malnourished do not do well in school, have reduced brain, physical comity development and so, are not likely to do very well in school, and that translates to reduced economic potential. At a population level, wasting and malnutrition in general contribute to increased expenditures on healthcare.
“On the economy, it reduces the gross domestic product (GDP) of a country. Research has shown that countries lose significant amounts in GDP due to wasting and malnutrition, thus this is the reason nutrition and prevention of malnutrition is a significant issue that must be addressed because we want healthier populations that can perform optimally and contribute to the growth, development of the country. We also want individuals who are well-adjusted, who grow well and happier and healthier.
“This in general makes nutrition a most sectoral issue that must be solved by all partners, sectors. Across all sectors, we need Ministries of Health & Social Welfare; Agriculture & Food Security; Budget & Economic Planning; Women Affairs; Water Resources & Sanitation; Humanitarian Affairs & Poverty Alleviation, and the likes to join hands in this essential cogent project. These sectors have critical roles to play in ensuring that the rate of malnutrition in the country is drastically reduced, and one of the most practical ways to achieve this is by ensuring more budget and financial allocation to nutrition.
“In summary, government must create budget lines for nutrition to adequately execute nutrition prevention and treatment programmes and interventions. Thus, the catchword; “more money for nutrition; more nutrition for the money”. It is apposite that when we have more money for nutrition, we will have more nutrition for the money in terms of a healthier, happier, well-adjusted and more productive population”, the UNICEF Nutrition Officer elaborated.
Why is good nutrition important? For a better understanding, compare the body to a house. It is indisputable that standard houses start with a plan and a blue-print. Builder interprets blue-print. They ideally choose building materials carefully. Substitutions may occur if some materials are unavailable. Buildings that would last, and in good condition, need regular maintenance.
The “plan” for the body is in the DNA. All the “building materials” come from food and water, and these building materials are called nutrients. When the body does not get the right nutrients it needs, substitution occurs, which leads to negative consequences.
The body must get the right nutrients at every stage of life to be able to develop and grow properly including the brain. According to Sarris et al., 2015, the human brain operates at a very high metabolic rate, using a substantial portion of the body’s total energy and nutrient intake.
Suffice to say that nutrition is a compelling issue that must be accorded optimum attention by the government for growth and development of a healthier and productive population, and no responsible government should wait to be pushed to do the needful considering that it costs a whole lot more to cure malnutrition than its prevention.