UNICEF Says 7.3m Adolescent Girls, Women of Reproductive Age in Nigeria are Undernourished

 UNICEF Says 7.3m Adolescent Girls, Women of Reproductive Age in Nigeria are Undernourished

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) yesterday declared that the number of adolescent girls and women aged 15 to 49 years, who were undernourished has soared from 5.6 million in 2018 to 7.3 million in 2021 in Nigeria.

It placed Nigeria among the 12 hardest hit countries by the global food and nutrition crisis.

According to a new global report released by UNICEF, which was made available to journalists, 12 countries – including Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Chad, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Yemen – represented the epicentre of a global nutrition crisis that had, “been increased by recent impacts of COVID-19 and exacerbated by the war in Ukraine and ongoing drought, conflict, and instability in some countries.”

The report with the theme: “Undernourished and overlooked: A Global Nutrition Crisis in Adolescent Girls and Women – issued ahead of International Women’s Day (IWD), warned that the ongoing crises, aggravated by unending a gender inequality were deepening a nutrition crisis among adolescent girls and women that had already shown little improvement in the last two decades.

This nutrition crisis is pushing millions of mothers and their children into hunger and severe malnutrition,” UNICEF’s Executive Director, Catherine Russell said.

“Without urgent action from the international community, the consequences could last for generations to come.”

According to the report – an unprecedented and comprehensive look at the state of adolescent girls’ and women’s nutrition globally – more than one billion adolescent girls and women suffer from undernutrition (including underweight and short height), deficiencies in essential micronutrients, and anaemia, with devastating consequences for their lives and wellbeing.

It added: “In Nigeria, 55 per cent of adolescent girls and women suffer from anaemia while nearly half of Nigerian women of reproductive age do not consume the recommended diet of at least five out of 10 food groups (grains and tubers, pulses, nuts and seeds, dairy, meat, poultry and fish, eggs, dark green leafy vegetables, other vitamin A rich fruits and vegetables, other vegetables and other fruits) according to the 2022 National Food Consumption and Micronutrient Survey.

“Inadequate nutrition during girls’ and women’s lives can lead to weakened immunity, poor cognitive development, and an increased risk of life-threatening complications – including during pregnancy and childbirth – risking mother’s lives, also, with dangerous and irreversible consequences for their children’s survival, growth, learning, and future earning capacity.

“For example, in Nigeria, 12 million children under 5 are stunted, meaning they are too short for their age due to malnutrition. Of those, about half become stunted during pregnancy and the first six months of life, the 500-day period when a child is fully dependent on maternal nutrition, according to a new analysis in the report.”

The release explained that, “to prevent undernutrition in children, we must also address malnutrition in adolescent girls and women,” Russell added.

According to the report, “South Asia and sub-Saharan African remain the epicentre of the nutrition crisis among adolescent girls and women, home to 2 in 3 adolescent girls and women suffering from underweight globally, and 3 in 5 adolescent girls and women with anaemia.

“Meanwhile, adolescent girls and women from the poorest households are twice as likely to suffer from underweight as those from the wealthiest households.

“Global crises continue to disproportionately disrupt women’s access to nutritious food. In 2021, there were 126 million more food insecure women than men, compared to 49 million more in 2019, more than doubling the gender gap of food insecurity”, the release stated.

UNICEF Nigeria Country Representative, Cristian Munduate, also stated that, “In Nigeria, the 2022 Cadre Harmonise analysis published by the government shows that 17 million Nigerians are suffering from acute food insecurity, and this is likely to increase to 25 million in lean season this year (FMARD, 2022)”

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