Photo of Nigerian child. More than 15 in 100 Nigerian children suffer from malnutrition. Photo via Flicr Commons Mike Blyths photostream.
UNITED NATIONS (BNO NEWS) — The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Thursday said the Government of Niger needs international support to fight its alarming levels of child malnutrition and deal with its root causes.
More than 15 children in every 100 suffer from acute malnutrition, according to the National Nutrition Survey that was released this month. The prevalence of global acute malnutrition (GAM) among children under five years old in Niger is back to the same levels experienced in June 2009 – 12.3 percent – registering a decrease of more than three points (16.7 percent) from the previous survey conducted last November.
In addition, the survey found that children aged six to 23 months account for a large share of the nutritional burden with one in five children affected by GAM and 4.2 percent of them by severe acute malnutrition, the most severe form of malnutrition.
Compared to June 2010, the numbers have dropped. However, they remain well above those that prevailed in June 2009 before a serious food and nutrition crisis struck the nation, UNICEF said, adding that the nutritional status remained above the emergency threshold of 10 percent for seven of the country’s eight regions.
Furthermore, the survey revealed “unacceptably high” rates of chronic malnutrition for all age groups which follow an upward trend having registered an increase by five points to 51 percent in June.
“The prevalence of this form of malnutrition, harmful to the psychological development of children, illustrates the cumulative effects of recurrent episodes of malnutrition in children and reveals the urgency to act upstream to address the disease by offering children a healthy diet soon after birth,” UNICEF stated.
Nutrition director at the Ministry of Public Health in Niger, Dr. Maimouna Guéro, emphasized that malnutrition has enormous consequences: morbidity and mortality increase, poor educational achievements and lower productivity. She also promotes practices such as exclusive breastfeeding within the first hour of the child’s birth and up to six months.
However, only 27 percent of Niger’s mothers exclusively breastfeed their children up to six months, according to the latest child survival survey conducted in 2010.
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