In the Land of Plenty, children are hungry.

Most cases of malnutrition begin within the first 1,000 days of a child’s life - from conception to the child’s second birthday.

One-third of children under five in Nigeria suffer from Chronic malnutrition or stunting, the Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole, said on Thursday.

Malnutrition is known to slow economic growth and perpetuate poverty by reducing children's brain development, their ability to learn, and be productive.

Evidence indicates that malnourished children learn less in school, are more likely to drop out and earn less as adults.

Children lose up to 10 IQ points if they do not receive adequate nutrition in their early days.

mMalnutrition Programme

Delivering a speech at an event held to launch a programme that would help tackle the cases of malnutrition in Nigeria – mMalnutrition Programme, Professor Adewole said there had been strong interest in addressing the challenge.

According to him, the wife of the Nigerian President, Aisha Buhari, in 2016 launched the National Policy on Food and Nutrition.

He said the policy is consistent with the 2014–2019 Health sector National Strategic Plan of Action on Nutrition (NSPAN), which identifies 6 priorities areas; Maternal Nutrition, Infant And Young Child Feeding, Management of Severe Acute Malnutrition In Children less than 5, Micro-nutrient Deficiency Control, Diet Related Non-Communicable Diseases and Nutrition Information Systems.

It also has 6 strategies through which the priorities will be achieved, he said, listing the strategies to include: Advocacy and Resource Mobilisation, Behaviour Change Communication, Capacity Building, Service Delivery, Research, Monitoring and Evaluation and Coordination and Multi-Sectoral Partnerships.

The programme involves the use of mobile technology to expand access of health and nutrition services and it is part of the Behaviour Change Communication strategy in the current administration’s National Strategic Plan of Action on Nutrition (NSPAN)."Such messages typically focus on educational content geared towards improving nutritional practices such as the promotion of balanced diets, basic steps for improving nutritional content of locally available foods, encouraging exclusive breastfeeding of infants, and safe and appropriate complementary feeding of infants and young children.

"With support from relevant stakeholders, the Federal Ministry of Health has developed effective messages that would ensure an uptake of health and nutrition practices by the populace. The nutrition content specifically targets the five (5) key developmental stages, viz: Women of Reproductive age, Pregnancy, Newborns, Infants and Children under 5 years of age," he told the gathering.

These messages are to be implemented through Short Message Service (SMS) and voice in major local dialects across Nigeria to enable vulnerable pregnant women and mothers with children under the age of 2 access life-saving Nutrition mobile content on health and nutrition information and education services.