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CS-SUNN: 53% Of Deaths Under-Five Years Due To Poor Nutrition

By ORIH CHIBUIKE, The Nigerian Voice, Abuja
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Scaling-Up Nutrition in Nigeria (CS-SUNN), has said that 53 percent of all deaths in children under the age of five is due to poor nutrition.

According to CS-SUNN, poor nutrition in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life leads to poor physical growth which is irreversible and associated with poor brain development and reduced school and work performance.

Speaking at the Annual General Meeting of the Nutrition Society of Nigeria, CS-SUNN Prof. Ngozi Nnam, noted that the result of the country's very poor nutrition and health indices is fuelled by lack of access to basic healthcare, water and sanitation. According to her; 53.3% of women in reproductive age have problems accessing health care while household access to improved sanitation stands at 30.1% only.

"Malnutrition and nutrition-related diseases continue to be problems of public health importance in Nigeria with the under-five mortality rate unacceptably high at 158 per 1,000 live births, prevalence of stunting 37%, underweight 29%, and wasting 18% in children under five years (NDHS 2013).

"The immediate causes of malnutrition in children in the first two years of life are inappropriate breastfeeding and complementary feeding practices coupled with high rates of infections.

"The NDHS 2013 shows that exclusive breastfeeding rate is only 17%, and Malaria and diarrhoea incidence amongst children under five years stand at 12.5% and 10.2% respectively.

"Currently, under nutrition contributes to half (53 percent) of all deaths in children under the age of five. Poor nutrition in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life leads to poor physical growth which is irreversible and associated with poor brain development and reduced school and work performance," she added.

Nigeria has about 11 million stunted children, ranking highest in the Continent and second globally. The immediate causes of malnutrition in children in the first two years of life are inappropriate breastfeeding and complementary feeding practices coupled with high rates of infections.

To stem this tide, CS-SUNN chairperson therefore called on government to implement the National Strategic Plan of Action for Nutrition (NSPAN 2014-2019) at every level, with emphasis on maternal and child nutrition.

"Budgetary allocation and timely release of funds for maternal nutrition and Infant & Young Child Feeding (IYCF) practices and interventions, at the national, state and local government levels, and in all sectors.

"Maternity and Exclusive Breast Feeding (EBF) protection through the Extension of Maternity Leave to six months from the current three months. Lagos State is the only state to have adopted this," she said.