United Nations Children Fund, (UNICEF) has decried over the stunting rate of children in Benue state, the food basket of the nation, saying 283,727 children under five years of age, are malnourished and stunted.
Chief of UNICEF Field Office, Enugu, Mrs. Juliet Chiluwe, made this known on Thursday in Makurdi during the Coordination meeting of all partners, stakeholders and Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs, on the implementation of food and nutrition programme in the state.
Mrs. Chiluwe highlighted out that the situation was made worse by the fact that available data indicated “almost one out of two (43%) children are denied the vital benefits of exclusive breastfeeding within the first six months of life in Benue State.”
Mrs. Chiluwe said: “Benue State though the Food Basket of Nigeria alone has stunting rate of 21 percent (representing 283,727 children under five years of age), underweight prevalence of 13.6 percent and almost 1 out of 2 (43 percent) children are denied the vital benefits of exclusive breastfeeding within the first six months of life in Benue.
“Unfortunately, malnutrition has become a silent emergency and this silent emergency receives far too little attention.”
“UNICEF is committed to working with all of our partners in government and other UN agencies, the media as well as civil society and the private sector to help propel this global movement forward.”
“The stakes could not be higher; and the path to progress could not be more clear; it is time for all of us to seize this opportunity.
“The causes of stunting may be complex, but in the end, our choice is very simple.
The Chief also stated that: “investments in Scaling-Up Nutrition will yield immediate returns. They will save and contribute to lives, enable children and their mothers to have a better future, contribute to livelihoods, reduce poverty, and contribute to the economic growth of nations.
“Yet nutrition has a perennial low attention in Nigeria and in Benue state and has therefore contributed to the high global malnutritional rates.”
In her presentation on nutrition activities in Benue from 2022 till date, the State Nutrition Focal Person, Mrs. Faustina Shar said that a comprehensive review of results in 2021 showed significant decline in child food poverty rate across the states but Benue showed higher levels compared to other states.
She said “this implied that more hands needs to be on deck to ensure children’s access to adequate nutrition for their development.”