Going by a report of the United Nations Children Fund, Nigeria is among the 24 countries with large number of undernourished children in the world. Inadequate nutrition in childhood undermines the ability of individuals to develop their full capabilities. Lack of essential minerals like iodine and iron can impair brain development.
In developing countries such as Nigeria, it is estimated that 40 per cent of children aged four years and younger suffer from anaemia because of insufficient iron in their diets.
Poverty is inextricably linked with food insecurity and hunger. It also increases the trend of homelessness as there are thousands of street children across this country.
According to the World Bank, 66 per cent of the Nigerian population live below poverty line of less than $2 USD a day. This clearly indicates that poverty is still and would remain a growing problem. Many children live in environments without adequate shelter, sanitation nor clean drinking water and limited health care facility.File photo: Malnourished children
About 10 million children of school age are not attending schools due mainly to poverty and unemployment status of their parents who cannot afford to provide them with basic education. This could be alarming considering the fact that the Federal Government had assured of nine years primary and junior secondary education as stipulated in the Universal Basic Education Act 2004, with stringent penalties for parents whose children and wards are found on the streets during school hours.
Because of poverty, parents have been compelled to send their children to the streets to hawk food items such as groundnuts, oranges, mangoes, sachet water, minerals, bananas, carrots, tomatoes, pepper, vegetables and cooking oil, just to mention a few. Due to their tender ages, some of these child-hawkers can be kidnapped by ritualists, sexually abused, knocked down by moving vehicles on busy streets or fall victims of hazardous environments.
Those children who managed to be in schools experienced so much hardship as a result of unconducive learning situation like over-crowded classrooms, lack of ventilation, insufficient reading books, writing materials and disgruntled, ill-motivated and poorly paid teachers.
In the rural areas, some of the children used to come to school every morning, carrying their own small writing desks and sitting chairs.
Yet, over N80 billion as at 2012, made available by the Federal Government under the UBE 2004 Act in respect of funding remained in the vault of CBN because most of the states are unable to provide the counterpart funds required to access the UBE money.
Infrastructural decay has become prevalent in most schools as classroom buildings are dilapidated, roofs leaking, windows destroyed, school compounds flooded during rainy season, while there are inadequate toilets, no drinking water and lack of recreational and sporting facilities.
Master Femi Adeola, 5 years-old, attends a community primary school at Nosada. He is in Primary 2. His father is a cassava farmer while the mother sells vegetables in the local market. Speaking in Yoruba, he said: “I don’t eat in the morning before leaving home. My dad gives me N20 which is not regular. I will wait till break time before using the money to buy rice and beans without meat. On my return home, I go immediately to help my father in the farm.”
Worldwide, over 50 per cent of children are malnourished against less than 5 per cent in developed, rich nations. In the Nigerian food consumption and nutrition survey recently carried out, 42 per cent of Nigerian children were stunted while 25 per cent were underweight.
Under nutrition undermines the survival growth and development of children and diminishes the strength and capacity of the nation.
According to WHO and UNICEF, 88 per cent of deaths is attributed to unsafe water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene. Diarrhea kills about 1.5 million children in the developing world and 200,000 Nigerian children annually.
Those living in poverty have a higher prevalence of disability and chronic illness and suffer lower life expectancy than those of higher income levels. Children from poor homes are more commonly affected by infections, respiratory and gas-troin testinal infections, wheezing illness.
Research has shown t hat there is high tendency of educational failure for children who are from poor or low income backgrounds. They usually drop out than their counterparts from affluent homes. High level of juvenile delinquency, teenage pregnancies are found among children from poor homes.
Education, the main driver of growth and economic, technological and scientific development is still not adequately accessible in Nigeria,, thereby contributing to high incidence of poverty in the country.
To worsen the situation, corruption has held the nation captive coupled with bad governance, bribery and all kinds of malpractices can be found at all levels of government and strata of the Nigerian society.
Children and youths are the worst hit as they roamed the streets jobless, homeless, eventually resorting to criminality.