Mal­nu­tri­tion slowly killing Nige­rian chil­dren

Daily Trust - - HOME FRONT - By Olayemi John-Men­sah

The United Na­tions Chil­dren Fund (UNICEF) has raised alarm that mal­nu­tri­tion is slowly killing Nige­rian chil­dren from ages 0 to 5 years out of the 1.6 mil­lion chil­dren across the coun­try.

In a me­dia di­a­logue work­shop on child mal­nu­tri­tion or­gan­ised by UNICEF and the Child’s Right In­for­ma­tion Bureau (CRIP) in Kano, UNICEF re­vealed that over 1.6 mil­lion Nige­rian chil­dren, ap­prox­i­mately 30%-47% are suf­fer­ing from the scourge of mal­nu­tri­tion and that if noth­ing was done to check­mate the men­ace, chil­dren in the coun­try in the next 20 years would lack the abil­ity to com­pete favourably with their for­eign coun­ter­parts on the in­tel­lec­tual scene.

The Fed­eral Min­istry of Health de­fines mal­nu­tri­tion as a patho­log­i­cal con­di­tion brought about by the in­ad­e­quacy of one or more of the nu­tri­ents es­sen­tial for sur­vival, growth, de­vel­op­ment, re­pro­duc­tion and ca­pac­ity to learn and func­tion in the so­ci­ety. It is against this back­ground that the min­istry re­vealed that ig­no­rance plays a ma­jor role in in­creased mal­nu­tri­tion in the coun­try.

The Head of Nu­tri­tion in the Fed­eral Min­istry of Health, Dr Chris Isokpunwu, said chil­dren in both rich and poor homes could be mal­nour­ished, de­pend­ing on what they ate ad­ding that mal­nu­tri­tion was a silent killer.

He added that the key nu­tri­tional prob­lems in­cluded poor in­fant feed­ing, en­ergy and pro­tein de­fi­ciency, lack of vi­ta­min D and iron de­fi­ciency in their food in­take.

A doc­u­men­tary from the FMOH shows that Nige­ria loses about 2,300 un­der-five year olds and 145 women of child bear­ing age daily to is­sues re­lated to mal­nu­tri­tion mak­ing the coun­try the second largest con­trib­u­tor to the un­der-five and ma­ter­nal mor­tal­ity rate in the world.

Dr Isokpunwu who stressed that mal­nu­tri­tion is recorded in the homes of all so­cial classes, main­tained that two out of ev­ery five chil­dren in the coun­try were not fed ap­pro­pri­ately and urged moth­ers to ex­clu­sively breast­feed their new born ba­bies un­til they are six months old.

“Ex­clu­sive breast­feed­ing does not re­quire giv­ing the baby wa­ter at all, through­out the pe­riod of six months be­cause breast milk in it­self is rich in wa­ter,” she said.

The North-west is said to be lead­ing in the per­cent­age rate of mal­nu­tri­tion in the coun­try with 54.8 per­cent in the 2015 in­dices with Kebbi State as the state with the high­est per­cent of stunted growth chil­dren with 61 per­cent.

A nu­tri­tion­ist, Tokunbo Fara­biyi, while speak­ing to Daily Trust said they want the me­dia to adopt a be­hav­iour com­mu­ni­ca­tion chain and ad­vo­cate for higher num­bers of moth­ers to breast feed their ba­bies, ex­plain­ing that 41 per­cent of moth­ers are prac­tic­ing breast feed­ing with wa­ter while only 17 per­cent prac­tice ex­clu­sive breast feed­ing.”

“Ex­clu­sive breast­feed­ing helps chil­dren per­form well in school, and they are more suc­cess­ful than those who are not ex­clu­sively breast­fed,” Fara­biyi said.

With the #stopchild­mal­nu­tri­tion­nige­ria# UNICEF’s com­mu­ni­ca­tion spe­cial­ists, Ge­of­frey Njoku, re­it­er­ated the roles of the me­dia in ed­u­cat­ing par­ents and the pub­lic on the im­por­tance of ad­ding ba­sic nu­tri­ents such as iron, pro­tein, cal­cium, and vi­ta­min to foods given to chil­dren to guar­an­tee their well­be­ing.

Co­or­di­na­tor, African Cen­tre for Me­dia and In­for­ma­tion Lit­er­acy, Chido Onumah, who spoke on ‘Me­dia Ad­vo­cacy for In­creased Re­sources for Child Nu­tri­tion’, em­pha­sized the roles of the me­dia in re­vers­ing the poor rate of mal­nu­tri­tion in the na­tion, ex­plain­ing how the me­dia could sup­port ad­vo­cacy for in­creased re­sources for nu­tri­tion pro­gramme in the coun­try.

The rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Min­istry of In­for­ma­tion and Cul­ture, Mrs. Rose Madu, said the launch was to in­crease ac­cess to nu­tri­tional care and treat­ment as well as cre­ate aware­ness that would en­gen­der be­havioural change.

“The fed­eral gov­ern­ment is do­ing ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to raise the aware­ness of good nu­tri­tional prac­tices and we call on all stake­hold­ers to ad­vo­cate for ad­e­quate al­lo­ca­tion and timely re­leases of nu­tri­tion fund,” she said.

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