There are countries and cities where life expectancy is the highest in the world. People in Japan, Singapore, Australia, and Switzerland are likely to live to their 80s. The rates at which children (under 5 years) and mothers (as a result of pregnancy) die yearly in those areas is almost zero. Women and children have better access to health and nutrition, security of life and property is not a problem, technology is enhanced to better the lives of citizens and the future is actually bright for their leaders of tomorrow. Life expectancy in Nigeria is 54 years. If you clock 60 years in Nigeria, you have a lot to be grateful for.
In Nigeria, the general outlook in terms of life expectancy and human development index is poor. However, in-country, you would find that some areas are doing much better than others in terms of securing the future. ENUGU STATE takes the lead. That is if you are look through the lens of the National Nutrition and Health Survey 2015. This is most recent survey by the Federal government of Nigeria, UNICEF, USAID and UKAID.
The prevalence of Stunting in children under five years in Enugu is the lowest in the country. Stunting is an indicator that shows impaired growth and development in children. It shows chronic undernutrition as a result of habitual deficiency in protein and micronutrients and illness or infection over a long period of time.
How will you know a child that is stunted? The child would be short for his age; stunted. But you see, that short stature is not the big deal. The big deal is that brain development and intelligence level is very much affected and the damage is irreversible after two years of age. They also have an increased risk of chronic diseases like hypertension, diabetes, and even obesity. Who wants a child that is short, not smart and has a higher probability of NEVER reaching his potential and might spend his reduced earnings on health care?
Malnutrition in women aged 15-49 years in Enugu state is 1.9%. When you compare this to 12% and 14% in Northern states you would agree that women in Enugu have a higher probability of survival and a more productive life. Enugu state beats Lagos in all these indicators too.
These indicators are very important. Nutrition indicators are critical for national development. Stunting in children is a strong indicator of hunger and endemic poverty. If you want to know how a state is doing, this indicator will give you a lot of information.
Enugu state must be doing some things right. It could be that women have more access (physical and economic) to food, feeding is of better quality and quantity and feeding practices are adequate and better coping strategies. There could be better access to health care and good sanitation in households. We need to study what their government is doing to provide a better life for their people. There must be a strong political commitment towards food and nutrition security, health and poverty alleviation. What are Enugu mothers doing to ensure that their families eat food that is adequate in quality and quantity? We need to know these things.
This is not to say that Enugu is performing excellently well in all indicators. Acute malnutrition and underweight could be seen but these indicators were still low. So they may be having short term problems; maybe some hunger periods or illnesses or decline in some other development indicators. It could be one or many things but for the long term, Enugu state is the best state for women and children right now. Hopefully, when the next survey is out, more states would be doing better.