28th February, 2012
A recent survey carried out by a UK-based charity organisation, Save the Children, has shown that Nigerian children are among the most malnourished in the world.
In a report titled “A Life Free From Hunger: Tackling Child Malnutrition”, Nigeria is listed alongside India, Bangladesh, Peru and Pakistan as countries faced with malnutrition.
In its analysis of the causes of malnutrition with a focus on chronic malnutrition and stunting in children, the report indicates that nearly two in five children on the African continent are stunted.
The report also revealed that the majority of the respondents polled have reduced the quantity of food they buy for their family as a result of rising prices of food.
The poll therefore suggests that families may be eating less as a response to the rising prices. This has also affected the variety in people’s diet.
According to the report, the quality of food and variety appear most acute in Nigeria where only one in four say they can often afford such food.
Also, respondents in half of four of the five countries say that they are only sometimes, or never able to afford nutritious food such as meat, milk or vegetable for their family.
This is a food for thought for the Goodluck Jonathan administration. This report has gone a long way to confirm what we have always known, that the majority of Nigerian families can hardly afford to put food on their table because of the abject poverty in the country.
This poverty was recently accentuated by the increase in the cost of petrol from N65 a litre to N97 a litre. Cost of food rose in reaction to the increase in the price of petrol, forcing many families to cut down on food consumption, quality and variety. Many families can hardly feed nowadays, let alone take a balanced diet to fight malnutrition. The prices of nutritious food have gone beyond the reach of the common people. Families are groaning and are making do with what their meagre incomes can fetch them.
The susbsidy removal palliatives which the president promised Nigerians to alleviate their suffering have not been provided. Though the president assured that the palliatives would be provided, many people doubt his sincerity.
We hereby call on the Jonathan administration to urgently address the rising cost of food in the land and save children from malnutrition.
There are many ways of doing this. The government should provide more incentives to farmers by way of easy access to loan and provide means for the preservation of their crops. Animal husbandry should be encouraged on a large scale to provide the needed protein for our children.
Mass transit buses to bring farm produce to the cities should be provided.
Farmers should also be encouraged to go into massive vegetable production which will be sold at cheap prices to check malnutrition.
To prevent the growth of our children from being stunted, government should initiate a feeding programme in nursery, primary and secondary schools for children to eat nutritious food provided by the government.
Already, some state governments have plans to introduce feeding programmes in their public schools to reduce malnutrition among the children. This should be extended to secondary and tertiary institutions in the country.