No one can stress the fact that “good nutrition” is paramount for the well-being of every child; hence, medical personnel advice that children should be given breast milk uninterrupted for six months as the first 1,000 days of a child’s life gives an opportunity for preventing undernutrition.
According to the World Health Organisation, malnutrition is the gravest single threat to global public health. Globally, it contributes to 45 per cent of deaths of children aged under 5 years.
And in Nigeria, according to Abigai Nyukuri, UNICEF specialist, who at a programme organized by UNICEF and funded by DFID, stated that 2.5 million boys and girls under the age of five suffer from severe acute-malnutrition every year. In Borno, Adamawa and Yobe State in 2019, 444,000 boys and girls under the age of five will suffer from SAM and 258,950 children will likely die from malnutrition in 2020 except if the funding gap of N4.4 billion for the acquisition of 229,636 cartons of Ready-to-use Therapeutic Food is bridged.
With the above, it is audible to the deaf that all hands must be on deck to see how to curtail the menace called malnutrition because it increases infant mortality rate as one out of two children likely to die out of malnutrition.
If it is generally acceptable to all that the children of today are gearing up to become adult citizens of tomorrow, it becomes imperative to prepare them for the challenges of today so that when tomorrow comes, they will be better prepared to face these challenges. But that is not really the case. According to Nyukuri, the UNICEF specialist, malnutrition causes irreversible brain damage and compromise the intellectual capacity of the malnourished in adulthood. Now, just imagine 444,000 children in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe States affected with malnutrition.
With the effect of the insurgency already manifesting in these three states, if 444,000 are malnourished, no doubt this will serve as ”fertilizer” to the area facing insecurity already.
Since studies have proven that malnutrition affects the brain, resulting in lower IQs, malnourished children may not be able to think for themselves. If things are not corrected, they can be “recruited to join the bad gangs” and this will add to another challenge to the security agencies as studies has also shown that malnutrition leads to 16 per cent loss of GDP to the country.
Taking a look at education, malnutrition affects education attainment. According to studies: “The degree of cognitive impairments is directly related to the severity of stunting and Iron Deficiency Anaemia. Studies show that stunted children in the first two years of life have lower cognitive test scores, delayed enrolment, higher absenteeism and more class repetition compared with non-stunted children.”
No doubt, Life is about learning, apart from living and to a certain extent our parents are our first teachers but they tend to be unilateral. In school, children are exposed to numerous sources from which they can draw lots of knowledge, necessary for their development. Hence school is paramount for children to inculcate the workings of life.
It becomes problematic if these children are already hindered by the effects of malnutrition and are not able to learn.
It is now imperative for everyone to roll their sleeves and see that malnutrition especially in the North east is drastically reduced. More awareness and sensitization is needed to teach women on the importance of exclusive breastfeeding and in the case where the “Miracle food” (RUFT) is given to children, they (mothers) should be able to understand not to sell but give it to the food to their children as there is a collective gain inherent in eradicating malnutrition in the country.