Proper nutrients and balanced diets for children in the early development stages of life are critical. The effects of malnutrition in kids under age two are virtually irreversible. In addition to this, almost half of all deaths for children under the age of five are related to malnutrition. Hence, fighting to provide healthy food for children should be a priority. For children under six months, this means breast milk from healthy mothers, and a balanced, whole-foods diet for children over six months. This also means supporting mothers and ensuring long enough maternity leave.
Nigeria has the second highest rate of stunted children in the world, at 32% for children under five. Around 2 million children in Nigeria suffer from severe malnutrition. Despite this, on average, only two out of every 10 malnourished children is reached with treatment. Seven percent of women of childbearing age also suffer from acute malnutrition; therefore, young mothers of these malnourished children also need assistance. Fortunately, malnutrition has little effect on the production of breastmilk; because of this, breastfeeding for at least the first six months of life is physically and economically ideal. Yet in Nigeria only 17% of infants under 6 months are exclusively breastfed. This is likely because mothers, on average, only receive three months maternity leave in Nigeria. One study showed that 61% of employed Nigerian mothers agreed work was the largest obstacle in breastfeeding. Nigeria has services to help those in need: The Community-based Management of Acute Malnutrition programme, An affordable way of treating malnourished children that was first introduced in 2009, has treated over two million children since it was first introduced in Nigeria, at a cost of just $160 per child. Children are being fed Ready-To-use-Therapeutic Food, or RUTF, to nurse them back to health. Nigeria understands that not only do the lives of children and infants depend on action, but also the future of the country. A generation that grew up malnourished will have adverse effects on Nigeria’s economy and society.
Nigeria proposes to continue support for UNICEF’s program to implement the National Plan of Action on Food and Nutrition to strengthen health and community systems in high-risk countries. Additionally, Nigeria wants the UN to promote the use of Ready-To-use-Therapeutic Food for children in all countries with high rates of malnourishment. Lastly, Nigeria wants UN support of programs to help mothers in need
- Genevieve Woodby