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Nigerian Children Under 5 Risk Poor Devt, UNICEF Report Raises Alarm


More than half of Nigerian children under five risk poor development because they lack Early Childhood Development support.
This is contained in a new report by the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF).
The global report, which was launched in Abuja Tuesday, reveals that Nigeria is putting its children at risk of under-development, both physically and mentally.
This according to the report is because critical national policies are not providing an adequate foundation for their growth.
The report titled, “Early Moments Matter for Every Child”, outlines three policies that can give parents the time and resources needed to support their young children’s healthy development.
The recommended policies are: two years of free pre-primary education; six months of paid maternity leave; and four weeks of paid paternity leave.
“Nigeria currently has just three months of paid maternity leave, only one year of free pre-primary education and no paternity leave at all. Only about one in every 10 pre-primary children are enrolled in early education activities”, the report states.
The United Nations agency therefore called for investment in early childhood development, which it described as the most sensible thing to do.
The report revealed that a 2016 national survey indicated that 31% of children under the age of five are moderately or severely underweight in Nigeria.
“Stunting as a result of malnutrition can cause irreversible physical and mental retardation. Even though exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby’s life has clearly been shown to improve physical and mental development, the same survey revealed that only 24% of Nigerian children are exclusively breastfed for six months. Paid maternity leave will help to increase the number of children exclusively breastfed.
In his presentation, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Mohamed Fall said that Early Childhood Development, which includes physical and cognitive support, has a strategic place in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
“Investing in Early Childhood Development including services to support caregivers, quality pre-primary education and good nutrition will help to secure healthy and productive future generations in Nigeria,” he noted.
“Also, supporting exclusive breastfeeding, having good Early Childhood Development policies in place will help to improve the overall health and nutrition of a child, enable parents and caregivers to be more responsive to children’s needs and provide greater safety and security.”

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