Consistent monitoring, evaluation of nutritional status critical to child development, growth
Consistent monitoring and evaluation of the nutritional status of the Nigerian children is important not only to assess the impact of various multidisciplinary interventions but also to identify other necessary efforts required to support and nourish the growing children to their maximum potentials.
These were the submission of a Child Nutrition Expert, Adesanjo Oyejide in his paper titled: The Nutritional Status of Nigerian Children: What Needs to Change.”
According to him, the 2018 National Demographic and Health Survey revealed that one out of every three Nigerian Under-5 is stunted, seven percent and 22 percent of them are wasted and underweight respectively, while 68 percent of the children are anaemic.
Oyejide point that inadequate dietary intake is among the immediate causes of malnutrition, adding that the children are fed with predominantly plant-based foods lacking in one or more essential nutrients such as amino acids, vitamins and minerals, leading to macro and micronutrient malnutrition.
He said it is an established fact that the aetiology of child malnutrition is diverse, classified into immediate, underlying and basic causes as lucidly illustrated in the UNICEF’s conceptual framework of malnutrition in 2015.
He said the implications, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), shows that malnourished children, particularly those with severe acute malnutrition, have a higher risk of death from common childhood illness such as diarrhoea, pneumonia, and malaria.
He said nutrition-related factors contribute to about 45 percent of deaths in children under-5 years of age WHO, adding that these anthropometric indicators have been well correlated with the cognitive development of a child, such as, the likelihood of children with non-verbal IQ being below average, which according to nutritional status were 3.5 times more likely among underweight children and two times more likely among thin and stunted children.
Proffering solutions, Oyejide urged all stakeholders, governmental and non-governmental organisations alike to renew and increase their commitment to the optimal nutrition of the children.
He added that the importance of nutrition education and dietary counseling of parents and caregivers cannot be over-emphasized, noting that children need to be supported beyond survival.
He explained further: “A balanced and adequate diet consistent with their rapid brain growth and development will enhance their school enrollment, academic performance and productivity. Chief among the nutrients required to support children’s fast developing brain is DHA.
“DHA is an omega-3 fatty acids predominantly found in the membrane of the brain and is a major building block of the brain. DHA is found in breastmilk and food sources like fish, eggs and chicken. Breast milk is the best for babies and of course the gold standard for infant feeding.
“The World Health Organisation recommends that infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life after which appropriate complementary feeding should be commenced while breastfeeding is continued up unto at least two years. Afterwards, it’s important that milk remains a vital part of a child’s diet till adolescence and beyond.
“According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, milk and dairy products have been successfully used in the prevention and treatment of moderate and severe malnutrition in children. A well-balanced growing-up milk, tailored specifically to their nutritional requirements, can serve as a valuable addition to their daily diet by providing substantial amounts of daily-required (essential) nutrients including DHA.
“Peak 456 Growing Up Milk with DHA is specially formulated for children 4 to 6 years old to support their physical growth and continuing brain development. As stated by UNICEF in its website feature, Unlocking children’s potential, good nutrition is the bedrock of child survival, health and development. We must all do our best as policy makers, service providers or parents to address the worrisome nutritional status of Nigerian children.”