Kuni Tyessi in Abujaâ€¨
Due to the disturbing and overwhelming figures attached to the scourge of malnutrition, specially in the North-east and north-west of Nigeria, a nutrition expert and Head of Nutrition, Federal Ministry of Health, Dr. Chris Isokpunwu, has urged parents and the general public to adopt positive behaviour towards improving the nation’s nutritional status.
Isokpunwu made the call at a media dialogue on child malnutrition organised by the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) in Enugu with the theme; â€˜Investing in child malnutritionâ€™.
Delivering a paper on â€˜Scaling up Â Nutrition in Nigeria: What is the cost?â€™ he noted that about one million under five children die annually in Nigeria: adding that half of these deaths were due to malnutrition. According to him, the number makes Nigeria one of the highest contributors to the world under fives mortality.
Isokpunwu said major causes of malnutrition in the country include households and individual levels.He called for a change in attitude to address the burden through breastfeeding practice, ensuring that children were de-wormed twice annually and given vitamins supplementation.
He also said that there was the need to observe good hygiene practices and adequate care for mothers and children in the area of food security as well as accessing healthcare services in the event of any health challenge of the child.He, however, expressed displeasure on poor hygiene practices by some mothers before or while feeding their children, adding that it deters the childâ€˜s nutritional status.
The expert emphasised that a child suffering from diarrhoea would not be able to retain what he was taking which could lead to under nutrition.According to him, expectant mothers should endeavour to take folic acid among other antenatal drugs which assist in the cognitive development of the child.He listed other issues affecting the nationâ€™s nutritional status to include poverty, ignorance, sanitation or environment, culture and religion.
â€œMalnutrition indices in children are stunting, wasting and under nutrition and if mothers can be discouraged from giving their babies water within the first six months, it will be of great help. Solutions to the nationâ€™s malnutrition burden, however is ensuring you take the child to hospital to get the right care, monitoring the growth of the child, and immunising the child at as when due.
â€œMicronutrient and de-worming intervention, parents should avail their children of these services. Pregnant women need to take iron and folic acid not just for themselves but for the unborn child. The first one thousand days of a child from pregnancy till two years is crucial, so adhering to exclusive breastfeeding practice for six months after birth will enhance cognitive development of the child. Adequate nutritional diet or complimentary feeding among others are solution to addressing the nationâ€™s malnutrition challenge.â€œâ€Ž