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PREVENTING MALNUTRITION IN NIGERIA: THE IMPORTANCE OF EATING RIGHT

By Nikiruka Rosemary Uwu

Source: Watchdog News – Malnutrition in Nigeria. wdn.com.ng

Malnutrition can be said to be a poor condition of health caused by a lack of food or a lack of the right type of food. Under-nutrition in Nigeria is a problematic issue that has been around since the 1960s and has had a huge impact on the general population of Nigerians. This is because Nigerians are consuming food in poorer quality and quantity. A recent survey revealed that malnutrition has worsened amongst children under the age of 5. This survey, the fifth round Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS5) also shows that malnutrition is greater in children under the age of five in rural areas than in urban areas. A staggering percentage of Nigerians lack access to good and quality food, thus, there is a cause to make food available and affordable to everyone in the country.

Nigeria records a high number of children who die from malnutrition each year. Bad or inadequate food can lead to an imbalance of nutrients in the body and this can lead to various diseases which can harm the human body. Malnutrition disrupts the functioning of the human body. It is even more dangerous for children than in adults because their bodies are still tender and not that strong and defensive against illnesses. Some of the main causes of malnutrition in Nigeria include – imbalanced diet, bad food, dirty environment, inconsistent meal schedules, lack of good sleep, bodily diseases, neglect, no exercise, and overworking one’s self.

THE IMPORTANCE OF EATING RIGHT

Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

What you eat will invariably affect your health; a healthy lifestyle encompasses good and balanced eating habits. Apart from exercise, a good diet will help you reach your desired weight, reduce your risk of diseases and improve your health in total. There is a nexus between good and balanced nutrition, healthy weight, reduced risk of diseases and general health. A good diet consists of highquality proteins, carbohydrates, good fats, vitamins, minerals and water, for optimal health, you will also need to minimize your intake of processed foods, saturated fats and alcohol. Eating healthy and right will help you save money from future health expenses that would have resulted from a disfunctioning of the body system and illnesses. Good eating habits will help you increase productivity, save money on life insurance, enhance mood, regulate weight, make you healthier, and help you live longer.

The importance of eating healthy cannot be overemphasized, when we eat good... we feel good. The foods we eat will either build us up or break us down. Consuming a good and balanced diet can help us achieve an optimal health throughout our lifetime; eating a good diet is important for good health and wellbeing. Good food provides our bodies with the energy, protein, fats, vitamins and minerals necessary to live, grow and function adequately. We need a wide array of foods to provide us with the sufficient amounts of nutrients for good living. Enjoyment of a good diet is one of the great cultural pleasures of life.

PREVENTING MALNUTRITION IN NIGERIA

Malnutrition usually results when people do not eat or absorb the right amounts and types of food and necessary nutrients… Globally, more than 3 million children die each year as a result of malnutrition. One main indicator of childhood malnutrition is stunted growth. Stunted children normally have very poor physical and brain development, and this prevents them from reaching their full potentials in life. At the moment, Nigeria faces a crisis of malnutrition, with over 11 million children with stunted growth, Nigeria ranks second behind India among countries with the highest number of children with stunted growth.

The is a window time to prevent malnutrition, and this is usually within 1000 days from the start of a woman’s pregnancy until her child turns two years old. Proper nutrition during this period can prevent malnutrition, ensuring that the child has the best opportunities to grow fully. If the 1000 day window is not optimized, there are usually very adverse effects which cannot be reversed. Proper nutrition within the 1000 day window produces a lifetime of advantages for the individuals, their families and their nations as a whole.

There are a number of strategies that can work to prevent malnutrition. They are as follows:

1. Mothers should ensure that their children receive adequate breast milk feeding. Mothers should breastfeed their babies from the first 30 minutes of birth and exclusively for the first 6 months without any other foods or liquids, not even one drop of water.

2. After the first 6 months of life, mothers should begin giving their children sufficient quantities of healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, eggs and meat, alongside with continued breastfeeding and they should do this until the children are up to 2 years of age and beyond.

3. Mothers and children should ensure at all times that they consume foods containing necessary vitamins, minerals and nutrients.

4. Parents and caregivers should be given up-to-date information on the best feeding practices for infants and young children, and also support. This will ensure that children are taken care of and fed in the best way possible to prevent malnutrition.

Everyone has a role to play to combat malnutrition in Nigeria; there should be more awareness on the silent crises of malnutrition in Nigeria, we should reach out to others in various sectors of the economy such as health, finance, education, agriculture and women affairs, and work together to fight the menace. The government of Nigeria should take every necessary opportunity that presents itself to integrate nutrition into national policies. There should be an advocacy for a budget line for nutrition at the national, state and local government area (LGA) levels in all sectors of the country. Lastly, there should be more funding and implementation of programmes that use proven strategies to fight malnutrition.

CASE STUDY: MALNUTRITION IN KADUNA STATE, NIGERIA

Stakeholders in Nigeria’s health sector have reported that cases of malnutrition among women and children in Nigeria have become a public health concern in recent years. For example, Dr. Idris Isokpunwu, Head of Nutrition, Federal Ministry of Health rated Nigeria as the second highest contributor to the less than five years and maternal mortality rate on the globe. In Kaduna State, a survey shows that malnutrition accounts for 50 per cent of deaths among children below five year of age, a situation that made health experts declare the state epidemic for malnutrition. Mrs Janet Gwani, a Nutrition Officer in the state’s Ministry of Health, said that 912,822 children indicating 57 per cent of children in the state are stunted; this implies that 6 out of every 10 children are stunted due to a case of chronic malnutrition.

United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Water Sanitation and Hygiene Specialist in the state, Mrs. Theresa Pamma, described insufficient water, sanitation and hygiene as significant cause of malnutrition and stunted growth among individuals. She says, 50 per cent of cases of malnutrition are associated with diarrhea and worm infections. She added that stakeholders should focus more attention on issues concerning sanitation, health and water situation in both urban and local communities in Kaduna state.

In the same vein, UNICEF’s Nutrition Specialist in the state, Dr. Florence Oni, attributed the development of malnutrition to inadequate breastfeeding, complementary, feeding, care and ignorance.

All in all, stakeholders stress the need for a more integrated nutrition specific and nutrition sensitive intervention approach in fighting malnutrition in Kaduna State, Nigeria. They call for more focus on community management of acute malnutrition and encouragement of good breastfeeding practices, complementary feeding, among other tactics.

CONCLUSIVE REMARKS AND VIDEO

Poverty continues to be an underlying cause of malnutrition, specific and targeted interventions are thus necessary to address this menace and this includes efforts to prevent low birth-weight, diarrhoea, and also reduce health imbalances. Regular antenatal clinic attendance, deworming of children, proper nutrition and growth monitoring should be encouraged. However, further studies and tests are needed on the timing and use of information on growth faltering to prevent extreme forms of malnutrition.

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