The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Planning and Monitoring Specialist, Enugu Field Office, Maureen Zubie-Okolo has disclosed said that no fewer than 152, 243 children under five years in Enugu State are stunted in growth.
Okolo disclosed this on Friday in Enugu during a Policy Dialogue with Enugu State Executive and Legislative Councils on Investment in Nutrition.
She attributed the incidence to a poor state of nutrition arising from poor maternal, infant, and young child feeding practices during the first 1000 days.
Okolo said “In Enugu State, only 7.8 per cent of children fewer than five years receive the minimum acceptable diet while less than one-fifth children 0-5 months are exclusively breastfed.
“This is a call for both the executive and legislative arms of the state government to come together to ensure that nutrition is placed on the agenda,” she said.
She said that malnutrition had become a silent emergency which, unfortunately, was receiving far too little attention.
The UNICEF official said that the meeting was in line with the Sustainable Development Goals agenda of ending all forms of malnutrition by 2030.
She said that the goal also included achieving the internationally agreed targets on stunting and wasting in children under five years by 2025.
Okolo said that UNICEF was committed to working with its partners, including the state government to achieve the agenda.
Zubie-Okolo said that nutrition had received perennially low attention in Nigeria and in Enugu and had, therefore, contributed to the high global malnutrition rates.
According to her, investment in scaling-up nutrition would yield immediate returns, save lives, and enable children and their mothers to have a better future.
Also speaking, a Nutrition Specialist, Chizoba Steve-Edemba, said that the nutrition indices in the state were so low and needed to be addressed.
She appealed to the state government to extend the maternity leave of nursing mothers to six months.
“This will help the state to improve nutrition outcomes for all and improve human capital development,” Steve-Edemba said.
In his address, the Enugu State Commissioner for Budget and Planning, David Ugwunta, said that the state government would aggregate all issues raised at the meeting and attend to them.
He expressed the commitment that the budget provisions for nutrition management in the state would be improved.