In Lagos, wasting, stunting among under 5 children, a time bomb
As a matter of urgency, the Lagos state government needs to scale up nutrition interventions in order to save under-five children in the state from stunting and wasting.
Raising this alarm over malnutrition challenges in the state, Coalitions of Civil Society Organizations in Nigeria has said, according to the 2018 National Demographic Health Survey, NDHS, Lagos state has 6.6 percent of under-five children who are wasted and 17.3 percent are stunted.
According to Child Nutrition Indicators, one of the main indicators of childhood malnutrition is stunting. That is when children are too short for their age. Stunted children have poor cognitive and brain development which prevents them from reaching their full potential in life. The indicator also said that children who are wasted are those too thin for their height. Research shows that wasted children are categorized as those with Severe Acute Malnutrition, SAM.
Explaining further in an interview during a two-day Coalition Meeting To Strengthen The Health and Nutrition Intervention In Lagos state, the Project Manager, Civil Society Scaling-up Nutrition in Nigeria, CS-SUNN, Mr. Sunday Okoronkwo said that, "Studies have shown that children with SAM have seven months to either survive or die because they are in a critical situation and even complicated with other forms of diseases powered by the malnutrition status of that child."
Okoronkwo said that the challenge of malnutrition cuts across the whole country, not just The Northern States with Lagos having a high burden among under-five children, reiterating that, NDHS puts under-five children in the state who are wasted at 6.6 percent and 17.3 percent are stunted. This implies that 17 children out of 100 children in Lagos are stunted. Okoronkwo said for stunted children, " their brain will not be properly developed and a country or a state that allows her children to fall victims is endangering the future of that state, because those children are the future of the state."
Explaining further, he said, "if a child is stunted, he or she will not be able to fulfill his or her potential. He or she will not be able to perform well in school because already he is deficient in brain development and one challenge about stunting is the fact that if you don’t prevent it until that child is two years old, it is irreversible. Once that child is two years old and is stunted that child is stunted for life. Being stunted for life means that the child will be denied the opportunity to fulfill his or her destiny or be the best he or she can be in life."
The CS-SUNN Project Manager added that " it has been proven that over 50 percent of childhood killer diseases have their root cause of malnutrition. If a child is malnourished that child is susceptible to contract any of these killer diseases and the probability of that child dying from those diseases is higher and if the child is already malnourished."
Stating a UNICEF report, he said that children with SAM cases have nine times the likelihood of dying before their 5th birthday than that of a child that is normal. So if you deal with that malnutrition you could have as well prevented most of these children from falling victim to any of these child killer diseases.
He called on the Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Sanwo-Olu to urgently approve the Strategic Plan for Nutrition designed to run from 2020 through 2025, adding that the document if officially approved would provide a road map towards curbing the burden of malnutrition in the state.
Speaking on funding gap, Okoronkwo said that there is a need for the state government to observe closely and address the issue, pointing that there are challenges to be addressed.
The Strategic Plan for Nutrition document made provision for adequate funding of nutrition issues as well as guidelines for implementation of the plan by the various ministries and agencies involved, he pointed.
According to CS-SUNN's Project Manager, "the document is yet to be made official or officially approved but the truth is that that document is like a road map to fixing the challenges of malnutrition in Lagos. The truth is that there is malnutrition in Lagos and all stakeholders have to do something about it. “Globally it has been proven that malnutrition is a multisectoral issue and in order to solve it, it requires a multi-sectorial approach.
"The Scaling Up Nutrition, SUN movement, and other global body suggested that the best way to resolve the problem is to have what we call multi-sector plans of action that will bring together sectoral plans, synergizing and bring them together to not just talk of one sector but all sectors."
On collaboration, Okoronkwo said Lagos state government should also explore that area of with sectors who can work together so that jointly they can both utilized their resources effectively and cover more grounds as well as contribute to reducing malnutrition, adding that, the national started the process of developing the national multisectoral plan of action which is a follow up to the development of the national policy of food and nutrition. Now, the national plan is supposed to operationalize the policy.
According to him, " in the policy, we have over 15 targets that target several sectors and this plan was supposed to bring the sectoral plans and put them together so they can work to reduce malnutrition. The CS-SUNN having seen it is already working at the national level in collaboration with the national committee on food and nutrition came to Lagos state and supported them to domesticate the national policy and also develop a state-specific plan of action for Lagos state."
Okoronkwo said, at the moment, the Strategic Plan for Nutrition document is awaiting the approval of the State Executive Council and until that is done even though is being implemented by some sectors, it is still not an official document.
He noted that, "if Lagos state approves this plan it is easy for these sectors, private and even philanthropists to cue into this plan so that when the government is implementing jointly it can be measured on an annual basis to see the level of implementation. It can also clearly point to the fact some of the achievements and impact of implementing some of these interventions."
Okoronkwo said, he believes the future of Lagos state requires the best and it is time the state increase funding for nutrition, stressing that all line ministries should get adequate funding and not just get the allocation, the money should be released as at when due.