30 March 2010

Nigeria: Malnutrition, Cause of Deaths - Experts

Ibadan — Malnutrition has being identified as a major silent killer in Nigeria, which is responsible for over 60% avoidable maternal and infant mortality especially those under-five, the President, Nutrition Society of Nigeria, Professor Ignatius Onimawo has disclosed.

According to Professor Onimawo, malnutrition contributes to 60% of underlying causes of avoidable deaths, making Nigeria one of the country's in the world with the worst maternal and infant morbidity rate recorded among the comity of nations.

Professor Onimawo was speaking at the opening ceremony of the 21st anniversary of the Food Basket Foundation International Initiative at the University of Ibadan on repositioning Nutrition For National Development in Nigeria at the weekend.

He called for the review of the current national food and nutrition policy to accommodate the emergence of severe to moderate acute malnutrition as well as upsurge of metabolic syndromes which was not envisaged in the current policy.

His words, "Issues of nutrition will continue to be of great concern to every well meaning Nigerian considering the abysmal statistics of infants, under-five and maternal mortality rates in Nigeria."

"It has been proven and demonstrated that malnutrition contributes approximately 60% of the underlying causes of these avoidable deaths that paints Nigeria in red among comity of nations."

"It is instructive to know that of the over 100 universities currently operating in Nigeria only five run degree courses in nutrition and yet nutrition holds the key for the reversal of the vicious attack of these deadly diseases."

Professor Onimawo alerted food manufacturers in Nigeria of the need to become nutrition conscious in order to minimize the current upsurge of metabolic syndrome.

Also speaking at the occasion, the Commissioner for Health, Oyo State, Dr. Babalola Owolabi asked food and nutrition expert to deconcentrate euro-centric definitions of nutrition and look for the basic food requirements of Nigeria located within their culture in order to get out of the current malnutrition debacle.

In his address, the Chairman of the National Committee on Food and Nutrition (NCFN), National Planning Commission, Abuja, Paul Odiachi stated that over 10 million children in Nigeria are currently chronically undernourished.

His words: "Malnutrition is recognized by government as one of the most important factors in development, welfare, social and health challenges being faced in Nigeria especially by infants, children, women and the elderly as well as one of the leading cause of death among children under age five.

"It is equally recognized as both the cause and consequence of poverty, disease and mortality. In Nigeria, 41% of under-five year old children are chronically malnourished, making Nigeria the leading country in Africa and 3rd globally with over 10 million children chronically undernourished."

While calling for concerted efforts from all stakeholders to fight malnutrition in Nigeria, Odiachi maintained that "the alarming shape, scale and complexity of malnutrition in Nigeria calls for more concerted efforts from all stakeholders beyond public pronouncements and policies but requires concrete contributions from the private sector, academia and civil society organizations such as the food basket international."

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