Food availability, accessibility, and utilization remain significant challenges in Nigeria. In 2018, Nigeria was ranked 96 out of 113 in the Global Food Security Index, scoring 38 out of 100 points – a drop by 1.1 points from its 2017 ranking. 36.4 per cent of the Nigerian population suffer from food insecurity.2 7.9 per cent of the population are undernourished with the intensity of food deprivation at 48 kcal/person/day.3 According to the 2018 Global Food Security Index, Nigeria ranked poorly in food affordability, availability, quality and safety. For instance, diet diversification is at 34 per cent, while the global average is 52.5 per cent. Poverty in Nigeria is closely associated with a lack of dietary diversity and malnutrition. Although Nigeria reported improvements in rates of stunting (from 42 per cent of children in 2003 to 32 per cent in 2018),4 the prevalence of stunting is still classified as a high public health concern according to World Health Organization (WHO) standards.5 Cultural and gender norms contribute to poor nutrition and health among women, and a lack of awareness about resources for nutrition underlie and exacerbate these key issues. Key drivers of malnutrition in Nigeria include poor maternal nutrition and health (particularly among adolescent girls), poor breastfeeding and complementary feeding practices, frequent illness among children of less than two years of age, food insecurity, and a lack of diversity in household diets.6In Nigeria half of all childhood deaths annually are attributed to malnutrition which is also the cause of high stunting rates. The costs of malnutrition include the economic costs associated with the increased burden on the healthcare system and indirect costs as a result of lost productivity. The national stunting rate is 37 per cent of all children under the age of five years but averages 25 per cent for VCDP states. Although lower, it is still higher than the global average of 22 per centi. Among the VCDP target states, Taraba and Nasarawa have the highest stunting rates of 41 per cent and 31 per cent, respectively. Stunting is closely linked to inadequate care for mothers and children including poor feeding. Only 29 per cent of children 0-6 months are exclusively breastfed and 11 per cent 6-23 months received a minimum acceptable diet. Poverty and maternal education are closely associated with the poor nutritional status of stunted children — over fifty percent are found in lowest wealth quintiles. Education of mothers is also closely linked with stunting. 57 per cent percent of children who are stunted have mothers with no education at all compared to 13.9 percent whose mothers have secondary level education. Sixty-eight percent of children in Nigeria have anemia. Although this average is similar across most of the states, Taraba and Ebonyi have the highest rates of over 70 per cent among VCDP target states. Childhood anemia is closely linked with a drop in adult wages because it can impair cognitive development, stunt growth, and increase morbidity from infectious diseases. Anemia is also strongly associated with wealth, with over 80 percent of children with anemia found in the lowest wealth quintile compared to 53 percent in the highest.
Anemia in women is highest in adolescents (15-19 years) at 60 per cent. At the same time, 19 per cent of this age group had begun childbearing and close to half have no formal education and reside in the lowest wealth quintiles. Iron deficiency due to poor dietary intake of iron, intestinal worms and chronic infection are some of the causes of anemia. Maternal malnutrition increases the risk of poor pregnancy outcomes including, premature or low-birth-weight babies and postpartum hemorrhage. Moreover, low birth-weight babies who survive are likely to suffer growth retardation and illness throughout their childhood, adolescence and into adulthood. Growth-retarded adult women are likely to carry on the vicious cycle of malnutrition by giving birth to low birth-weight babies. Nutritionally, women are also affected by the burdens of being underweight (11 percent) and obese (25 percent).7
Inadequate water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services and unhygienic environments increase the risk of diarrhea and environmental enteropathy, which can lead to the reduced absorption of nutrients.
VCDP AF2019 will intensify nutrition interventions that build on the increases in incomes and empowerment of women (especially control over resources) generated by VCDP interventions, since experience has shown that this approach is the most effective and efficient. In addition, VCDP will step up support to farmers engaged in the cassava value chain, since cassava is a rich source of carbohydrates.