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Nigeria Among Top 20 Countries Hit Hardest By Child Food Poverty, Says UNICEF Report

UNICEF’s 2024 report indicates child food poverty affects one in four children, with Nigeria among the top 20 countries that are worst affected.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has said one in every four children globally is living in severe food poverty, adding that Nigeria is among the top 20 countries that are worst affected.

In its 2024 Child Food Poverty report, the global body said the implication was that the affected children – amounting to 181 million under five years of age – were surviving on one or two food groups per day, and even less on some days.

UNICEF defined child food poverty as children’s inability to access and consume a nutritious and diverse diet in early childhood.

“The scale of this deprivation is alarming, and the overall slow progress to address this crisis hides deep inequalities at both global and regional levels,” the report said.

The report said while severe child food poverty affected all regions of the world, 20 countries in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa were home to more than two-thirds of children living in severe child food poverty.

The countries include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Niger Republic, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Somalia, South Africa, Uganda, the United Republic of Tanzania and Yemen.

Out of a total of 63 countries surveyed in the report, Nigeria came 32nd, falling under the “high” category of nations with severe child food poverty — faring worse than Ghana, Togo, Mali and Côte d’Ivoire.

The report identified growing inequities, conflict and climate crises, combined with rising food prices, the overabundance of unhealthy foods, harmful food marketing strategies and poor child feeding practices, as some of the factors condemning millions of children to child food poverty.

It said though parents and families have a responsibility to feed their children, “severe child food poverty is the result of systems that are failing, not families that are failing”.

“Feeding young children is not simply about filling stomachs,” the report added.

“But the forces that lead to severe child food poverty – poor food environments, poor feeding practices and household income poverty – are beyond their full control.

“These forces persist because the food, health and social protection systems are failing to improve physical and financial access to affordable nutritious and diverse foods and are failing to equip parents and families with the knowledge, skills and support they need to feed these foods to their children.”

In the foreword of the report, UNICEF Executive Director, Catherine Russell, said ending child food poverty is a policy choice, and that the solutions are “well known”.

UNICEF said part of the solutions was to “position child food poverty elimination as a policy imperative and child food poverty reduction as a metric of success towards achieving global and national nutrition and development goals, with time-bound targets and results in relevant sectoral and multi-sectoral plans.”

Michael Olugbode

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