- Nigeria’s poverty rate jumps 40%
- UNICEF: 7m children could face severe malnourishment
- 1-in-3 Nigerian children suffering chronic malnutrition
- Nigeria 6th world’s lowest in World Bank HCI
- Enugu mulls 6 months maternity leave for lactating mothers
Enugu State government is moving on with the domestication of the national policy on food and nutrition with the support of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), to tackle widening poverty in the south eastern state, affecting mainly women and children, at a time Nigeria’s poverty rate has jumped to 40 percent 2018/2019 levels, according to data from the World Bank.
The situation has been further worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has side-lined a lot of existing structures that champion nutrition in the country.
According to the United Nations, 6.7 million additional children in Nigeria can become severely malnourished due to the destruction of health services in the country.
Ibrahim Conteh, the chief of UNICEF field office Enugu, said the UN agency acknowledges that nutrition poses a very big challenge in Nigeria that leads to malnutrition and stunted growth among children in the country, especially in the rural areas.
It comes amid the World Bank stating that, in addition to 40 percent of the Nigerian population who fall below the poverty line, additional 25 percent of Nigerians are vulnerable to falling back into poverty.
The global development financial institution said, besides monetary poverty, Nigeria ranked sixth lowest globally in the World Bank’s human capital index (HCI) as of 2018, with one in every three children under the age of five suffering from chronic malnutrition.
Conteh, the UNICEF Enugu field officer, promised that the UN agency would continue to support the state governments to ensure that every child gets maximum nutrition in the states. He appealed to all the state governments in Nigeria to domesticate the 2016 National Policy on Food and Nutrition, for it is important to the growth and development of the nation.
He said that UNICEF, as a UN agency, has the mandate to ensure that every child realizes his or her right to nutrition; and in all sections, to ensure that the child grows up to be a healthy child and contribute meaningfully to the growth of the society.
“Our interest in nutrition is extremely important because if a child is not brought up in a very good nutrition way, you can be sure that the cognitive capacity of the child will be undermined; and therefore, every other organ of the child will not grow well, including the mental capacity. It is extremely important for a child to have very good nutrition as they are growing up so that every part of their body grows perfectly well,” Conteh said.
Business A.M. checks on the World Bank’s Covid-19 country response programme,revealed that, even before the COVID-19 pandemic, poverty and vulnerability levels were already high in Nigeria. Measured using the national poverty line, the poverty rate in 2018/19 was 40 percent nationally, with poverty rates significantly higher in rural areas (52 percent) compared to urban areas (18 percent).
According to the World Bank, geographically, all three Nigeria’s northern regions have higher poverty rates compared to the southern regions. The poverty rate in the North East (70.2 percent) is more than seven times higher than in the South West (9.7 percent). In the North East and North West, most individuals are either poor or vulnerable.
Meanwhile, MonicalUgwuanyi, the wife of Enugu governor, said, she is putting every effort to get the state government institute a 6-month maternity leave for all lactating women in the state’s employ, promising to continue appealing to her husband on the need for the six months maternity leave for lactating women in the state.
If granted, she said, it would give the nursing mothers enough time to take care of their children, and provide necessary food and nutrients required for the growth of the children.
“Enugu will soon join other states to ensure that children get adequate nutrition. As I pledged to ensure that everything concerning mother and child, whatever we are doing as far as it would be for the benefit of mother and child, we will do it. So, for 6 months maternity leave, I will keep on disturbing my husband, the governor. Every morning I will remind him of the states that have done that. So, Enugu should join. It will not be long,” the Enugu first lady said.
She commended the state government for inaugurating the Enugu Committee for Food and Nutrition, with the aim and objective to domesticate the National Policy on Food and Nutrition and the National Strategic Plan of Action for Nutrition in Enugu State.
She called on the committee members to put in their best to achieve the objective as quickly as possible; and not to wait for 2024. “We’re not here for joke, but for serious business,” she insisted.
She commended the UNICEF for always supporting all programmes that have to do with the development of women and children in the state, announcing that food and nutrition policy and programmes that are for the benefits of women and children have become priority projects for all the wives of governors of every state in Nigeria; and that they would make sure that it works. “We must achieve something, 2024 isn’t far; please let us do it and get away with it now and right, so that our children will be well nourished, and the mothers also will be healthy,” she said.