Foodie Naija Update

FOODIE NAIJA UPDATE (SCHOOL FEEDING AS A STRATEGY AGAINST MALNUTRITION)

At this critical time when there should be an intervention by the Federal Government to arrest the wave of malnutrition spreading like
harmattan fire in the country, the Osun example offers very great opportunity as a template for nationwide adoption.
Food is essential to human life.

This explains why food consumed by
both adults and children must be
nutritionally rich in content.
Any nutritional imbalance poses
serious health problems, particularly
to children – between the suckling age up to ten years.
It goes without saying that children
need high calories and balanced
diets for bodily growth and mental
formation.
A balanced diet is one
that gives the body the nutrition it needs to function properly. An inadequacy or
imbalance in diet causes malnutrition.

In medical and health parlance, malnutrition is generally a very
broad term which refers to both under-
nutrition (sub-nutrition) and over-nutrition.
An individual is
said to be malnourished or
suffering from under-nutrition if his or her
dietary intake does not provide the
adequate calories and protein for body maintenance and growth.

People can also be malnourished or
suffer from over-nutrition if they
consume too many calories.
According to the World Health
Organization (WHO), malnutrition is the
gravest single threat to global public health. And it is the
children who are by far affected by
malnutrition because they need nourishing
foods in their formative stages
more that any other group.

In essence, the quality of staple foods available to children in this early
stage of their lives goes a long way in
determining their development,
brain functions and health in later years.
Sadly, there are approximately
1.7 million severely and acutely
malnourished children under five
years of age in Nigeria, accounting
for a tenth of the global total of
children suffering from malnutrition.

And close to a
thousand Nigerian children, according to
WHO reports, die of malnutrition-
related causes every day, totalling
about 361,000 each year. Predominantly, a larger percentage of these malnourished children are located in the northern part of the country. The Punch newspaper
editorial of July 28, 2013, entitled,
“High Malnutrition in Nigerian Children,” highlighted this ugly
scenario by quoting a 2013 report by
the Federal Ministry of Health, which states thus, “41 percent of
Nigerian children under age five
suffer stunted growth as a result
of malnutrition.”

The survey, conducted in all the
states of the federation by the
ministry, according to the editorial, showed that acute malnutrition is prevalent among children in all
the states in the North, and is put
at as high as 80 percent of the
region’s population of children.
Last month, the Nigerian Tribune
reported that 2,072 children died
of malnutrition in Zamfara State
alone, in what could easiy capture as
one of the worst humanitarian
cases of the time.

The trend has been so alarming that the Federal Government in conjunction with the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) had to
quickly intervene in 2014 before it snowballed into a national crisis.
That prompt intervention,
according to reports, reached more than a
million children with a successful and cost-effective treatment for acutely malnourished children.

After the exercise, UNICEF disclosed that over a million
children were
reached with life-saving malnutrition treatment in the
Community-based
Management of Acute
Malnutrition (CMAM) introduced into 11 Northern Nigerian states where
malnutrition poses a great threat.
It is instructive to know that acute
malnutrition leads to stunted growth of
children, which in turn causes
disproportional physical body
formations as well as reduces intellectual capacities.

Many more had been saved through such interventions in
the past, not only in Nigeria but across the
African continent, mostly in war-ravaged countries like Sudan, Somalia, Rwanda, Burundi
and Central
African Republic.
This is as absurd as it is unacceptable in Nigeria of 21st
century where malaria, polio and other minor ailments still pose serious
health threats
to children.
Indeed, this trend must be reversed as a matter of urgency
or else millions of the nation’s potential
future leaders may grow up to be infirm in body and deficient in intelligence quotient.

Sincerely, I cannot agree more with some of the suggestions offered in the Punch editorial referred to above. One is an appeal to the 36 states of the federation to
introduce free feeding systems in
primary schools involving nutritional
food.

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