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Food Poverty: 1 in 3 children in Nigeria experiences severe child food poverty - UNICEF

In Nigeria, and across the globe, a confluence of factors is creating a child food poverty crisis.  Firstly, existing food systems struggle are failing to offer children the nutritious, safe, and readily available options they desperately need.  This fundamental gap leaves families scrambling.  Even if they could afford healthier foods, many parents lack the knowledge or resources to implement positive feeding practices for their children.


Compounding this struggle is the aggressive marketing of cheap, ultra-processed foods and sugary drinks.  These nutritionally-deficient options are heavily promoted, becoming the "go-to" for many families.  The consequence is alarming – a significant portion of young children facing food poverty are consuming these unhealthy alternatives, pushing out essential foods from their diets.  This trend creates a vicious cycle of poor health and limited development for the next generation


UNICEF released a report citing Nigeria as the second-most at-risk nation globally according to the Children's Climate Risk Index. The new UNICEF report available on the website reveals a heart-wrenching statistic: in Nigeria, around 11 million children under five – one in three – face severe child food poverty. This lack of nutritious food puts them at a staggering 50% higher risk of "wasting," a life-threatening form of malnutrition.


The report by UNICEF dubbed "Child Food Poverty: Nutrition Deprivation in Early Childhood," sheds light on a critical issue: dietary deprivation among the world's youngest. Analyzing data from nearly 100 countries across income levels, the report reveals that a staggering 181 million children under five experience severe child food poverty. This means they consume, at most, only two of eight essential food groups, hindering their growth and development. Nigeria is among the 20 countries bearing the brunt of this crisis, with nearly two-thirds (65%) of the world's severely food-deprived young children living there.


Open hands of children and grains
Tiny Hands and Grains

The UNICEF report paints a stark picture of the children most affected by food poverty. Four out of five rely solely on breastmilk/milk and starchy staples like rice, maize, or wheat. Fruits, vegetables, and nutrient-dense foods like eggs, fish, poultry, or meat are rarely consumed by these children – less than 10% and 5% respectively. This lack of dietary diversity comes at a critical time. While countries are still grappling with the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19, rising inequities, conflicts, and climate change are pushing food prices and living costs to record highs. A recent report by the Nigerian government and partners, "Cadre Harmonisé," estimates that nearly 32 million people in 26 states face food insecurity during the upcoming lean season (June-August), further exacerbating the challenges for children.


The new report reveals a huge disparity in hunger rates among Nigerian children. In the poorest families, a significant portion (44%) face severe hunger, compared to a much lower rate (17%) in the wealthiest families.  While this is concerning, there's a glimmer of hope.  Nationally, the proportion of children experiencing severe food poverty has shown a steady decline, dropping from 45% in 2012 to 32% in 2022.  Despite this progress, significant work remains to ensure all children have access to a nutritious and varied diet.


  • Globally, one in four children are living in severe child food poverty in early childhood, amounting to 181 million children under 5 years of age.

  • Progress towards ending severe child food poverty is slow, but some regions and countries are proving that progress is possible and is happening.

  • Severe child food poverty is experienced by children belonging to poor and non-poor households, indicating that household income is not the only driver of severe child food poverty.

  • Children living in severe child food poverty are missing out on many nutrient-rich foods, while unhealthy foods are becoming entrenched in the diets of these children.

  • The global food and nutrition crisis and localized conflicts and climatic shocks are intensifying severe child food poverty, especially in fragile countries.

  • Severe child food poverty is driving child undernutrition: the prevalence of severe child food poverty is three times higher in countries with a high prevalence of child stunting.


Other related report:

A UNICEF report, citing its 2023 Nigeria Climate Landscape Analysis for Children (CLAC), ranks Nigeria as the second-most at-risk nation globally according to the Children's Climate Risk Index


Original Source: UNICEF Nigeria

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