Raymond Ozoji, Awka
About 500,000 children under five years old in Anambra state grapple with acute malnutrition and stunted growth resulting from poor feeding and lack of proper hygiene practice.
The findings were contained in the 2017 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey conducted nationwide.
Speaking with journalists at the state secretariat complex Awka, Anambra State Baby-friendly Initiative cum Infant and Young Child Feeding Coordinator Ngozi Ekwedike said the result of the survey presented a precarious situation in the state.
She expressed deep concern saying that the number of malnurished children in the state was alarming and that urgent remedial actions should be embarked upon to address poor feeding culture among nursing mothers.
Ekwedike further noted that governnent has a responsibility to help increase rate in nutrition education through training of more health workers on infant and young child feeding, emphasizing that statistics showed poor infant and young child feeding practice in Anambra state.
According to her, breast-feeding rate across the country is abysmally poor due to the attitude of most nursing mothers who subject their babies to supplementary feeding during the period they are expected to practise exclusive breastfeeding, stressing that the negligent attitude of most nursing mothers were contributory factors to the high rate of malnurished children with stunted growth. This makes the infants susceptible to childhood diseases like miseasles, respiratory track infections, polio, diarrhoea, worm and a host of other ailments.
The state baby-friendly initiative cum infant and young child feeding coordinator further harped on the need for nutrition education to be scaled-up in the state. She however pointed out that stunted children pose dire consequences for socio-economic development of the state as productivity will be affected drastically.
When confronted with the question of collaboration between the state government, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and other development partners in tackling malnutrition and other childhood conditions, Ekwedike made it clear that UNICEF was no longer working with Anambra state and that the organisation left the state in 2016.
She stated that the state government was currently lobbying UNICEF to get the organisation to assist Anambra state in upgrading its nutritional status even as she also said that about three hundred and thirty immunisation champions were trained last year to further intensify campaigns on routine immunisation at the grassroots as well as the need for mothers to observe proper hygiene and sanitary conditions while handling their babies to avoid exposing them to early childhood diseases.