Written by Ijeoma UKAZU

Prioritising children’s nutritional needs

Nutrition as the best start in life for every child determines their survival, growth and development, hence the need to prioritise children's nutritional needs.

Due to their vulnerability, nutrition sensitive interventions are usually aimed at children so they can achieve optimal repair of their vital body system.

On this backdrop, the Lagos state government is focusing on children under the age of five so as to abridge their exposure to diseases and dangers as children are the leaders of tomorrow.

Speaking during one-day workshop in Lagos organised by National Primary Health Care Development Agency NPHCDA, in collaboration with the Civil Society Scaling Up Nutrition in Nigeria, CS-SUNN with the theme "The Minimum Package for Nutrition in a Functional Primary Health Care Centre," the State Nutrition Officer, SNO, Mrs. Olubunmi Braheem, said that, "the total well-being of a mother and child is our priority in Lagos State."

According to her, the states interventions on children nutrition specifically was because of their vulnerability, revealing that, the state is working with three main delivery platforms with the target to achieving its nutritional goals.

These platforms, Mrs Braheem said, includes; through the health facility, community structures and campaigns/ outreach.

Defining nutrition, she said, can be done in many ways and is dependent on individual perspective, pointing that, nutrition is viewed as "the intake of food, considered in relation to the body’s dietary needs."

Mrs Braheem also said, nutrition has been expressed "as the interaction between food we eat and our bodies, and how bodies respond to the 'nutrients' provided by the food eaten."

The state nutrition officer further stated that, basic understanding of nutrition showed that, "as a science that, it deals with the study of nutrients that are needed to promote, maintain and sustain good health, as well as restore good health in times of illness."

Speaking on the malnutrition situation in the state, Mrs Braheem revealed that, malnutrition remains a public health problem that could affect anyone with abnormal nutrition, adding that, it is the consequence of inadequate nutrition; young children are more vulnerable because of inappropriate feeding practices and care in early life, frequent illness as well as poor socioeconomic conditions of the family.

According to her, Lagos state has set targets to reduce 20 percent the number of under-five children who are stunted by 2020 as well as ensure no increase in childhood overweight or underweight by the same period.

The state, she said has also set target to reduce and maintain childhood wasting to less than 10 percent by 2020, as well as reduce anemia in women of reproductive age by 50 percent within the period under review, while increase exclusive breastfeeding rates in the first six months to at least 50 percent within same time frame.

 

Also speaking at the event, the Head, Nutrition, NPHCDA Abuja, Dr. Ogechi Akalonu pointed that, "the emergence of chronic diseases in Nigeria can be linked to nutrition misinformation. Poor food choices are often based on nutrition ignorance, misconceptions, superstition, religious and cultural unscientific beliefs.

"Consumption of a healthy and adequate diet can provide the nutritional needs of an individual throughout the life cycle from womb to tomb."

Akalonu added that the workshop would enhance knowledge and bridge skills gap of the health workers at Primary Healthcare Centres, PHCs, who are the first contact and care givers of mothers and children, noting that getting nutrition right through exclusive breastfeeding, good diets was a major step to reduce maternal and neonatal mortality and morbidity in the country.

According to her, if the Minimum Package for Nutrition is not implemented across Primary Healthcare Centres in Nigeria, more women and children will not receive high-impact proven nutrition interventions.

The nutritionist stated that, "the implementation of the Minimum Package for Nutrition would accelerate progress in reducing malnutrition and increase access and utilisation of cost-effective quality nutrition services for women and children in the country."

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