A new report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has showed that unless stakeholders act now, Nigeria will not achieve the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG2) of Zero Hunger by 2030 as one out of every three children are stunted and one out of every 10 children wasted, leading to 17 million children undernourished in Nigeria,

The report, “Fed to Fail? The Crisis of Children’s Diets in Early Life”, released on Wednesday, ahead of the UN Food Systems Summit this week, warned that rising poverty, inequality, conflict, climate-related disasters, and health emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic, are contributing to an ongoing nutrition crisis among the world’s youngest that has shown little sign of improvement in the last ten years.

Children under the age of two are not getting the food or nutrients they need to thrive and grow well, leading to irreversible developmental harm, says the report, adding that young children’s diets show no improvement in last decade and could get much worse under COVID-19.

In an analysis of 91 countries, including Nigeria, the UNICEF report finds that half of children aged six to 23 months globally are not being fed the minimum recommended number of meals a day, adding that two-thirds do not consume the minimum number of food groups they need to thrive.

According to the report, the 2018 Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey, in Nigeria, showed that among children aged six to 23 months, only 23 per cent have the minimum necessary dietary diversity, and only 42 per cent have minimum adequate meal frequency.

As COVID-19 continues to disrupt essential services and drive more families into poverty, the report finds that the pandemic is affecting how families feed their children.

Refering to a study conducted in Nigeria last year, the UNICEF report stated that Nigerians were already largely unable to afford healthy diets due to pre-existing food security challenges, with an estimated 40.1 percent of Nigerians unable to cater for their food expenditure and it is likely that this will only be worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic. With Nigeria being the highest burden of malnutrition in Africa and the second highest in the world, the report said that Nigeria is off track to achieve zero hunger by 2030.