UNICEF reports that 37% of children in Nigeria experience malnourishment. With a population of 213.4 million in the African country, 6 million Nigerian children suffer from severe hunger and stunted growth. The root causes of malnourishment in Nigeria include poverty, inadequate sanitation and food restrictions. The following is an overview of the efforts to alleviate malnourishment in Nigeria.
Action Against Hunger
Action Against Hunger reveals that Nigeria is Africa’s most popular and wealthy nation due to its fast-growing economy. However, the organization’s website reports that “Despite this, more than half of the country lives below the poverty line and northern Nigeria suffers with widespread child undernutrition. In 2020, 7.9 million people were in need of humanitarian aid.” The reduced access to food, clean water and sanitation facilities results in malnutrition and severe hunger. Additionally, the lack of basic services caused by poor knowledge of healthy feeding practices for young children results in extreme hunger.
Northeast Nigeria has faced food insecurity due to the conflicts involving the Boko Haram insurgency since 2012. In situations like this, it is more challenging for humanitarian organizations such as Action Against Hunger to positively intervene. However, Action Against Hunger works hard to operate within the most affected areas in the country — already reaching more than 2.4 million people facing malnourishment in Nigeria.
Here are some of Action Against Hunger’s efforts in Nigeria:
- supplying monthly food assistance to 210,00 people in Borno and Yobe states
- producing farming, fishing and vegetable garden training programs to improve families’ access to food
- strengthening the health care system in preventing malnutrition for pregnant and breastfeeding women
- improving people’s access to safe water by building and restoring water points
- supporting people who have fled conflict by distributing hygiene kits and providing shelter
United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF)
With 45% of all child deaths in Nigeria among children 5 and under being caused by malnutrition, UNICEF’s program intends to support the government in diminishing this tragedy. It implemented the National Plan of Action on Food and Nutrition, which sustains health and community systems by including nutrition in every aspect of the primary health care (PHC) system — focusing on micronutrient supplementation, community management of acute malnutrition (CMAM) and infant and young child feeding (IYCF) interventions.
Other sectors that UNICEF’s nutrition interventions support in Nigeria include:
- antenatal care
- the prevention and control of pneumonia and diarrhea
- distribution of insecticide-treated mosquito nets
- adolescent girls’ and maternal nutrition
UNICEF reports that, since 2009, it has been “supporting Nigeria’s community-based program for the treatment of severe acute malnutrition. Since then, the program has grown significantly to become one of the largest UNICEF-supported treatment programs in the world.”
Action Contre la Faim
For more than 40 years now, Action Contre la Faim has fought hunger and malnutrition around the world. It began its mission to alleviate malnutrition, specifically in Nigeria, in 2009. Currently, with a team of 394 people, Action Contre la Faim supports the progression of the country with multiple interventions. These interventions surround sectors such as Nutrition and Health, Food Security and Livelihoods, Access to drinking Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, Advocacy and Mental Health and Psychosocial Support.
Action Contre la Faim states that “In 2021, global acute malnutrition rates reached one of the highest levels recorded since 2016. Nigeria also experienced a significant cholera epidemic, which affected the north of the country especially.” Also, the non-government-funded organization reports that “In 2021, ACF supported communities and systems, helping them to improve their resilience, and continued with its nutrition and health emergency response, providing humanitarian assistance to populations impacted by conflicts and natural disasters.”
The organization was able to combat severe malnutrition in Nigeria by providing treatment for women and children — as well as introducing health education programs. Combined with the renovation and contraction of water supply points and sanitation facilities, Action Contre la Faim was able to “respond to the needs of displaced populations and of communities affected by the cholera epidemic.”
What is Next?
Despite these organizations’ great efforts and accomplishments to tackle malnourishment in Nigeria, an estimated 88.4 million Nigerians continue to live in extreme poverty. With poverty being the main cause of severe hunger among people living in the country, there is a need for poverty alleviation in the fight against malnourishment in Nigeria.
– Katerina Petrou