Nigerian children among the most malnourished- Survey

2012-02-21
THE PUNCH Newspaper- Jayne Augoye

Despite her potential for posterity, Nigeria has been listed as one of the five countries where half of the world’s malnourished children live.

According to a report by a UK-based charity organisation Save the Children, titled A life free from Hunger: Tackling Child Malnutrition, Nigeria is listed alongside India, Bangladesh, Peru and Pakistan as countries faced with malnutrition.

The survey recently published on the organisation’s website was carried out in the five countries by international polling agency, Globescan, contracted by save the children.

In its analysis of the causes of malnutrition with a focus on chronic malnutrition and stunting in children, it also identifies solutions that are proven to be effective.

With malnutrition statistics in Africa at a startling high rate, the report indicates, nearly two in five children on the continent – 60 million children — are stunted.

At least three in 10 in all countries polled, and majorities in two (Peru and Nigeria), say they have reduced the quantity of food they buy for their family.

The poll results suggest that families may be eating less as a response to these rising prices The findings also suggest that variety in people’s dietsare being affected, with at least a third in all countries except Bangladesh saying that, at least sometimes, they eat the same staple food for a week at a time.

The problem of food quality and quality and variety appears most acute in Nigeria, where only one in four say they can ‘often’ afford such food.

Similarly, at least half in four of the five countries say that they are only sometimes, or never, able to afford nutritious food such as meat, milk or vegetables for their family.

Large majorities in all countries polled say that the rising price of food has become their most pressing concern this year. Concern is most acute in Nigeria and Bangladesh, where people overwhelmingly feel that food price rises are the most pressing issue they face.

GlobeScan also finds that rising food prices regularly rank among the most serious global issues when it asks citizens across over 20 countries to evaluate 14 global problems each year. The survey covers a number of countries that have seen significant economic growth in recent years.

Nonetheless, the findings indicate that the benefits of this economic growth have not been felt across all sections of society. Significant proportions in all countries have been impacted by the rise in food prices, and its effects appear to be most concentrated among low-income and low-educated groups and those with large families.

The poll results state that families may be eating less as a response to these rising prices. At least three in ten in all countries polled, and majorities in two (Peru and Nigeria) say they have reduced the quantity of food they buy for their family.

The findings also note that variety in people’s diets may be affected, with at least a third in all countries except Bangladesh saying that, at least sometimes, they eat the same staple food for a week at a time. Similarly, at least half in four of the five countries say that they are only sometimes, or never, able to afford nutritious food such as meat, milk or vegetables for their family.

The incidence of hunger also appears significant, according to these findings. A majority of those with children under 16 in Nigeria, and more than one in four in India and Peru, say that their children complain that there is insufficient food to eat.

Nigeria and India are also the countries where the highest proportions — around a quarter in both cases — say that their children ‘often’ or ‘sometimes’ go without food for a whole day. Those on low incomes (in Pakistan and Bangladesh) or with three or more school-age children (Peru, Nigeria and India) are the most likely to report that their children go hungry for whole days at a time.

In contrast, the data suggest that most parents of school-age children have not been persuaded to keep them away from school in order to help them earn money to help pay for the family’s food.

The highest rate of this is once again in Nigeria, where three in 10 parents of school-age children say they have done so. Analysis by demographic variables reveals that parents who have low education levels themselves are among the most likely groups to have kept their children away from school for this reason.

The report further notes, “In Nigeria and India, the highest populated countries in Africa and South Asia respectively, parents appear to be struggling the most to feed their children. Specifically, about a quarter of parents in Nigeria (27%) and in India (24%) report that their children go without food for an entire day — not surprisingly, in both countries, those who have more than one child, are less educated or have low income are more likely to report this.”

Although both nations have fast emerging economies, this finding underlines the fact that many people are yet to experience the economic benefits.

Respondents were asked what unusual or non-standard foods were being eaten by the poorest families in their community during the times of greatest hardship. The results do not show that the eating of non-standard foods by the poorest families is widespread – or that if it is, others in their community remain unaware of it. Many of those surveyed were unable to say what others were eating. Nonetheless, the responses given indicate that a diet consisting of basic carbohydrates such as rice, pulses or seeds, often low-quality or unhygienic, may not be uncommon.

A large majority in each country indicates that the increasing cost of food has become their most pressing concern this year. People in Nigeria are most likely to be in overall general agreement that this is the case, while Bangladesh has the greatest numbers who feel strongly that food prices have become their most pressing concern.

The majority of people in Peru and Nigeria report that they have reduced the quantity of food they buy for their family. About half state the same in Bangladesh.

Those in India are least likely to have reduced the food they buy – but it should also be noted that compared to the other countries, more people in India say they are never able to afford nutritious food such as meat, milk or vegetables.

More so than any other country, parents in Nigeria say that they have allowed their children to miss school in order to work and help pay for the family’s food. As seen on the next slide, parents who are less educated were more likely to allow this — this is true in all countries, especially in Nigeria.

Half a billion children could grow up physically and mentally stunted over the next 15 years because they do not have enough to eat, the charity Save the Children says in a new report.

It says much more needs to be done to tackle malnutrition in the world’s poorest countries.

The majority of the countries were surveyed face-to-face, while Bangladesh participated through telephone interviews. The samples were structured to be nationally representative in all countries except Bangladesh. In Bangladesh, the telephone sample was structured to be representative of the mobile phone users in the country which accounts for 80 to 90 per cent of the adult population.

Participants in Nigeria answered questions in English, Hausa, Igbo and Pidgin English.

 

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