The Emir of Kano, Lamido Sanusi, has called on the federal government to show more commitment in its fight against malnutrition in the country.
Mr Sanusi also narrated an experience he said was his ‘saddest day’ as Kano emir.
On malnutrition, he said the government can tackle it by establishing an independent and well-funded agency.
Mr Sanusi said these in Abuja on Wednesday at the Annual General Meeting and Scientific Conference organised by the Nutrition Society of Nigeria (NSN).
This year’s NSN conference is the 46 edition and its theme is “Promotion of Nutrition for Sustainable Development: Current trends and innovation”.
Mr Sanusi, who is also the chairman, Board of Trustees of the NSN, said it is sad that many children and women still die from malnutrition in the country.
He said the government needs to show more seriousness in its fight against malnutrition.
“The government should prioritise its fight against malnutrition as a matter of urgency as most of the children who die from childhood killer diseases actually die from malnutrition which is the underlying factor,” he said.
The emir lamented that the high poverty rate in the country is one of the major factors inhibiting malnutrition in Nigeria “especially in the northern states where the burden is high”.
He lamented that his state (Kano) has one of the highest burdens in the country with 58 per cent malnutrition rate. “This is has been affecting child and maternal mortality as this is the underlying factor of diseases and death.”
“Many policymakers and academics deal with numbers. But they do not know what it is until they come face to face with people living in the condition. The figure does not really depict the picture of the reality on ground.
“You don’t know what it is, you have no idea what it is,” he said.
Narrating his ‘saddest day’ as an emir, he said it was less than a year after he ascended the throne.
He said a woman who came for financial assistance to buy drugs for her child did not get to him before the child died in her arms.
“This particular day as I was sitting on the throne, I heard a very loud scream from behind the screen and I said they should go check on it. When they came back I was told the scream was from a woman who was waiting to ask the emir for financial support to buy drugs for her infant child and while she was waiting, the child died in her arms.
“How much was she looking for, it was less than N3, 000. If you do not know what it means to live on less than one dollar a day, it is that as a woman you watch your child die because you cannot afford drugs worth N3,000. This is the country we are living in,” he said.
He said many children in the hospital who die of malnutrition do not make the news in the national dallies “because they are not children of dignitaries and this needs to change”.
“Why is it difficult to have one agency that is well funded and focus on malnutrition? What is the evidence that Nigeria is concerned about tackling malnutrition? The only evidence that the public figures are concerned about the problem is to see institutional evidence and funding evidence,” he added.
Also speaking at the event, the Vice president Yemi Osinbajo said the government is committed to tackling malnutrition in the country.
Mr Osinbajo, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health, Abdullahi Abdulaziz, said the theme of the conference underscores the government’s belief that innovative and optimal solutions can be harnessed in addressing the malnutrition solution in Nigeria.
Mr Osinbajo, who is also the chairman of the National Council of Nutrition, said the government is taking several steps to tackle malnutrition in the country.
Some of the efforts, he added include the school children feeding project, procurement of Ready to Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF), among others.
He said the government, in line with the national strategic plan of action on nutrition, has commenced a project aimed at increasing utilisation of high impact, cost-effective nutrition service for pregnant women and lactating women, adolescent girls and children under age five in 12 selected states.
Malnutrition in Nigeria
Currently, Nigeria ranks high as one of the countries with the highest burden of malnutrition in the world.
Nigeria also has the second-highest burden of stunted children in the world with a national prevalence rate of 32 per cent of children under five.
According to UNICEF, an estimated two million children in Nigeria suffer from severe acute malnutrition (SAM), but only two out of every 10 children affected is currently accessing treatment.
Also, seven per cent of women of childbearing age suffer from acute malnutrition.
Malnutrition is also said to be the direct or underlying cause of 45 per cent of all deaths of under-five children in the country.