Shocking Implications of Child Malnutrition: celebrating Nigerian Children
Proper nutrition is essential during childhood to ensure proper organ function, healthy growth, strong immune system, cognitive and neurological developments (World Health Organization, 2012). Nutritional status of a child plays a major role in the survival of that child due to the synergistic relationship between disease and malnutrition (De Onis, 2012; Katona &
Katona, 2008). Globally, malnutrition is an underlying persistent cause of child mortality, contributing to more than 7.6 million deaths annually (Ezzati et al., 2006). In developing countries specifically in Africa, two out of five children suffer and die due to malnutrition (Van de Poel et al., 2007). De Onis et al. (2012) suggested that malnutrition among children is a silent killer that is under reported, under prioritized as result under addressed.
One of the important socioeconomic factors that contribute to child malnutrition is family income and family size. However, in improvement of the nutritional statue of s child, income alone does not play a part; lack of knowledge in terms of what and how to combine the child’s nutritional needs can also lead to child malnutrition. This shows the significance of maternal education as it is a great predictor of the nutritional state of a child. In addition, communities where children have little or no access to health care facilities, they are more susceptible to malnutrition as a result of low rate of immunization, improper treatment of common ailment, and poor care during pregnancy. Environmental factors such as inadequate safe water supply and poor environmental sanitation can also put children at risk of being vulnerable to malnutrition.
Malnutrition leads to higher mortality and malnourished survivors have higher morbidity, requiring additional healthcare and divert the time of care givers from productive activities. Children who are malnourished have lower cognitive development and, thus, slower learning throughout life. Malnutrition also leads to fewer years of completed schooling on average due to late enrolment, increased grade repetition, absenteeism, and earlier dropout thus ending up as less productive adults.
Prevention is always the best bet in reducing child malnutrition and less productive adults. Therefore, adequate maternal nutrition before and during pregnancy and lactation; optimal breastfeeding in the first two years of life; nutritious, diverse and safe foods in early childhood; and a healthy environment, including access to basic health, water, hygiene and sanitation services and opportunities for safe physical activity are the ingredients to deliver a world where children are free from all forms of malnutrition.