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Stakeholders decry increasing cases of malnutrition among children, women

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*Urges govt to integrate multivitamin in school feeding programme

Some stakeholders in public health have decried the high level of malnutrition in Nigeria, stressing that women and children being the most affected due to poor access to basic micronutrients.They identified poverty, lack of functional primary health care centres across the country, illiteracy and poor access to multiple micronutrient supplements as some of the key factors deepening malnutrition in the country.

Speaking at a workshop on public health in Abuja, public health expert and country Director, Vitamins Angels, Francis Ohanyido, noted that Nigeria has been identified as the poverty capital of the world, which has put millions of people in a space where they cannot eat quality food, and as a result a lot people are malnourished. He noted that despite efforts of Angel vitamins, in collaboration with its 144 partners in supporting government expand access to micronutrients especially in low-income countries, the challenges are still enormous.

“Our Primary Health Care (PHC) system is not doing its work, we hope that the new Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF) will prompt states to strengthen PHCs because that’s where the problem is, if they are working these challenges will not be there”, he said
Ohanyido expressed concern that women and children tend to bear the brunt of the menace as women are often forced to go through pregnancy with inadequate or optimal level of nutrition which may cause complications during pregnancy, while death, stunted growth, poor response to diseases are some consequences of malnutrition amongst children.

“The recent demographic and health survey report shows that malnutrition is still a major problem in Nigeria. This is a critical problem that people tend to overlook. For example, if a malnourished woman experiences bleeding during delivery, it further worsens, because her body might not cope with”, he said. He added, “It also affects her immune system response and makes it difficult for her system to ward off ordinary diseases, and because she is poorly nourished too, the quality of nutrition plays on the foetus.

“If women and children are not well nourished it can affect brain growth especially in the first 1000 days of the child and the quality of brain and output of that child later in life.”The country director added that in addition to ensuring that women and children get the right nutrients and vitamins, exclusive breastfeeding and deworming are also critical.

According to him, when children are not regularly dewormed, they end up competing with worms for nutrients, but deworming will ensure that whatever they take in terms of nutrient is optimally utilised by the body. He added that exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months will also boost a child’s resistance to diseases.“Breastfeeding is fundamental, because of the poor literacy level, people don’t know the value. A child who is not well breaded has about 11 times more chances of dying of diarrhea,” he noted.

In an effort, to curb the problem, Ohanyido called on the government to develop policies that will favour exclusive breastfeeding, such that it encourages women to breastfeed. He also urged the government to ensure that health facilities have adequate micronutrients, because according to him,” even if the child is well breast fed, the environment has a large amount of soil transmitted worms which the child is exposed to.”

Also speaking, a public health champion and the Speaker Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Onofiok Luke, who harped on the importance of micronutrients, urged the federal government to factor multi-vitamin component into its school feeding programme. According to him, “It’s not just about providing food, but about the nutrient content of food provided. Do we have experts, nutritionist or dieticians who have looked at that?” he queried

Luke also called for the need to expand the scope of the National Health Insurance Scheme to improve access to health care facilities especially among the indigent. He said most nursing mothers do not go to hospitals or health care centres because of huge financial burdens.

Bassey Amos, from the department of public health Bingham University pointed out that the provision of commodities such as albendazole, vitamin A, and multivitamins are key in tackling malnutrition. Albendazole is an anthelmintic or anti-worm medication. It prevents newly hatched insect larvae (worms) from growing or multiplying in your body. Albendazole is used to treat certain infections caused by worms such as pork tapeworm and dog tapeworm. He informed that Vitamin Angels have over seven years supported the Federal Government through the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) and states to reduce vitamin A deficiency. He said the organisation has also strengthened Bauchi and Sokoto states to set up their own primary health care agencies.


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