Malnutrition can affect both children and the elderly, although thousands of Nigerian children below the age of five are at greater risk of death as a result of suffering from acute malnourishment. Malnutrition kills faster than the dreaded HIV/AIDS. A recent survey revealed that 1,000 children in Nigeria die daily of malnutrition. TUNDE OGUNTOLA writes.
Malnutrition is a condition which occurs when there is a deficiency of certain vital nutrients in a person’s diet. The deficiency fails to meet the demands of the body leading to effects on the growth, physical health, mood, behaviour and other functions of the body.
The term malnutrition addresses three broad groups of conditions:
Under nutrition which includes wasting (low weight-for-height), stunting (low height-for-age) and underweight (low weight-for-age).
Micronutrient-related malnutrition: which includes micronutrient deficiencies (a lack of important vitamins and minerals) or micronutrient excess; and
Overweight: Obesity and diet-related noncommunicable diseases (such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some cancers).
Every country in the world is affected by one or more forms of malnutrition. Combating malnutrition in all its forms is one of the greatest global health challenges.
Women, infants, children and adolescents are at particular risk of malnutrition. Optimizing nutrition early in life—including the 1000 days from conception to a child’s second birthday—ensures the best possible start in life, with long-term benefits.
Poverty amplifies the risk of, and risks from, malnutrition. People who are poor are more likely to be affected by different forms of malnutrition. Also, malnutrition increases health care costs, reduces productivity and slows economic growth, which can perpetuate a cycle of poverty and ill health.
Nigeria and most Asia countries have one of the highest numbers of malnourished children in the world.
Worldwide malnutrition is found to be the most important cause of illness and death affecting large populations of children and pregnant women.
In Nigeria, approximately 1.7 million children under the age of five are severely acutely malnourished. About 361,000 die from causes linked to malnutrition every year.
A data released shows that a program run by the Nigerian government and the UN Children’s Fund is saving children’s lives by getting them to eat more nutritious food.
The United Nation (UN) warned that as many as 3 million Northern Nigerians will not be able to meet their basic food needs without humanitarian support.
Adding that in addition to insecurity, lack of donor support is constraining the expansion of the humanitarian footprint while speaking at the UN Security Council briefing at the UN Headquarters in New York.
For the country’s not to bore the brunt of the epidemic all hands must be on deck as the crisis must be perpetuated by a combination of poverty, lack of education, early marriage and, in parts of the northeast, the insurgency by Boko Haram.
In the northern part of the country, it also means that education and literacy levels are lower. We also know that poverty in the northern part of the country is generally higher than we see in the south.
The children are weighed and checked for illnesses; the families leave with supplies of high-nutrition food for the children.
The program appears to be getting results. He said that data released this week showed the program has cured up to 830,000 children of malnutrition, and saved thousands of lives.
“More than 200,000 children are alive today. And they wouldn’t have been alive if the program wouldn’t have been there,” he said.
UNICEF says the 1.7 million malnourished children under five in Nigeria account for just a tenth of the total worldwide.
In adults, the most common symptom of malnutrition is weight loss. For example, those who lose up to 10 per cent of their body weight in 3 months without dieting are considered to be malnourished. There may be other symptoms like fatigue, lack of energy, lack of strength, increased susceptibility to infections, delayed and prolonged healing of even small wounds and cuts, irritability, dizziness, breathlessness, irregular menstruation, depression, anaemia, changes of skin, hair and nails etc.
Children with malnutrition additionally show irritability, inability to concentrate, failure to grow to their expected height, stunted growth, in kwashiorkor the child is between one and two with hair changing colour to a listless red, grey or blonde, face appears round with swollen abdomen and legs, Skin is dry and dark with splits or stretch marks like streaks where stretched.
The condition of the malnourished person is so pathetic that it needs urgent attention from Nigeria government and more commitment from all concerned. Hence, much is being needed to be done, in Nigeria and elsewhere.
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