According to the UNICEF, more than one million children die annually in Nigeria before their fifth birthday and malnutrition is the underlying cause of over 50 percent of such deaths. Poor feeding practices, shortfalls in food intake, and micronutrient deficiency have been identified as the direct cause of childhood malnutrition in the country.
In response to the overwhelming burden of childhood malnutrition a National Policy on Food and Nutrition was launched, with the overall goal of improving the nutritional status of all Nigerians. The specific targets include reduction of severe and moderate malnutrition among children under five by 30% by 2010, and reduction of micronutrient deficiencies by 50% by 2010. Unfortunately the set targets were not met.
Recently, the Nigerian Nutrition Network (NNN) met to review efforts at using nutrition to reduce child mortality in Nigeria and the President of Nutrition Society of Nigeria identified lack of community based nutrition education, stressing that nutrition education on consumption patterns and appropriate use of traditional foods in the country should be scaled up.
The Federal Ministry of Health, UNICEF, National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and other partners have also been involved in leading a national effort to add essential nutrients to commercially produced food products.
Despite all these efforts, the country is still facing many challenges in its efforts at improving the nutrition situation of young children. A critical review is recommended to identify gaps in the National food and Nutrition policy provisions on Infant and Young Child Feeding. Activities to fill in the gaps will require a strategic partnership to harness resources that will ultimately lead to the implementation of combination interventions of food fortification, community nutrition education, building local capacity for production, distribution and quality assurance of nutritious staple foods.