Upsurge of Malnutrition Crisis Deepens among Young Children in Nigeria
Malnutrition epidemic among young children is far from been over in Nigeria, as cases of malnutrition are on a steady increase. Malnutrition is a prevailing epidemic that thrives in Nigeria. The worse hits and vulnerable of malnutrition are young growing children under the age of five, who remain victim of the scourge. The prevalence of malnutrition is predominantly found in the northern parts and less in the southern region of the country. The insurgency activities in the Northeast have given a new face lift to malnutrition crisis in the north. According to UNICEF, 2.2 million out of the 2.5 million severely malnourished children in Nigeria came from Northern part of the country. Previous statistical report showed that 50 percent cause of child mortality can be attributed to malnutrition as the underlying cause, no fewer than 1200, out of 2600 estimated daily deaths are caused by malnutrition.
The contributory factors majorly responsible for the lingering crisis of malnutrition in Nigeria includes, poverty, poor diet, inability to afford or access nutritious foods, inadequate information about appropriate feeding practice, lack of understanding about the essential types and varieties of foods that children require to grow up healthy, lack of political will to implement exiting policy, dependent on funding donors and international agencies to finance nutrition interventions, and negligence on the parts of the government have all played their part in entrenching the already dire malnutrition crisis in Nigeria.
- Malnutrition exposes the young growing children to myriads of diseases and infections. Malnutrition has the tendency to lower the capacity of the body defense mechanism to resistance to infection and expose the body to preventable infectious diseases, illness and even death.
- The common presenting symptoms of malnutrition in children are weight loss, fatigue, lack of strength, breathlessness, diarrhea, anemia, changes of skin, hair and nails.
- Malnutrition is diagnosed by clinical examination of the affected child. More so, the body mass index in short BMI indicator and mid arm circumference can be used as a diagnostic tool in detecting malnutrition in children. Other diagnostic tests include routine blood tests for detection of anemia, chronic infection.
The practical approach in the prevention of malnutrition include provision of dietary plan with extra nutrient content, supporting and encouraging mothers to breastfeed their babies exclusively for the first six months of life; educating families about the correct feeding practices for older babies and children; and provision of micronutrient supplements and vitamins and fortified food for pregnant women and young children.
In order to beat malnutrition crisis, all hands must be on deck to stem the ravaging menace of malnutrition. Government at all level must wake up to its responsibility to tackle this menace headlong without any form of levity.
A holistic approach should be adopted by the government in strengthening the nation food security policy, review the existing nutrition policy and program provide greater leadership, better coordination, increased transparent funding and make adequate budgetary provision to scale up nutrition interventions.