Mothers have been advised to stop giving water to babies under the age of six months but should rather focus on exclusive breastfeeding.
The Head of Nutrition, Family Health Department, Federal Ministry of Health, Dr. Chris Isokpunwu, gave the advise in Abuja on Monday during a consultative meeting with states on accelerating nutrition result in Nigeria.
Isokpunwu said statistics showed that at least 46 per cent of mothers were giving their babies breast milk and water, thereby making the children susceptible to diseases.
He stressed that breast milk already contained water.
His words: “Babies below the age of six months should be exclusively on breast milk. About 46 per cent of mothers give water to their babies along with breast milk. This is wrong and it must be stopped. It increases the risks of babies having diarrhoea and pneumonia.”
Also speaking, the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, said Nigeria had the second highest rate of malnutrition in the world
Adewole, who was represented by the Director of Family Health Department at the ministry, Dr. Adebimpe Adebiyi, said nearly 1, 500 children in Nigeria died daily of malnutrition.
The minister said: “With a stunthing rate of 31.5 per cent in 2015, which translates to about 11 million children, Nigeria has the highest number of stunted children under age five in sub-Saharan Africa, and the second highest in the world.
“Similarly, about 7.2 per cent are wasted, that is acutely malnourished and 18.6 per cent are underweight. It is also a well-established fact that, as an underlying cause of death, malnutrition accounts for more than 50 per cent of deaths of children under the age of five in Nigeria.
“Every day, Nigeria loses about 2,300 children under-five year of age and malnutrition accounts for more than half of these deaths. It is therefore obvious that we cannot seriously think about reducing deaths of children under the age of five without addressing malnutrition.”
He stated that analysis by the Micronutrient Initiative showed that unless Nigeria took effective action to prevent and control Vitamin A Deficiency, over 80,000 Nigerian children would die annually.
Adewole said the total amount of money needed to fund the project to combat malnutrition was $912m.
The minister thanked the World Bank for making $350m available and called on all states to show strong coperation.