Malnutrition, particularly amongst children, is getting alarmingly worrisome. Apart from creating conditions of stunted growth in children, especially those under the ages of five, it claims millions of lives as well. According to the nutrition society of Nigeria, NSN, over 10.9million are malnourished, making the country one of the worst in the world.
Placed within the global context, malnourished children are said to be around 60million and causing the deaths of about 2.6million children, meaning it is one of the major killers of children. It is also expected that if these worrisome indexes are not checked, an additional over 2.4million Nigerian children will be malnourished by the year 2020.
The more malnourished children we have, the less hopeful our future would be, and given the measure of resources the country is blessed with, the situation even becomes more depressing and unacceptable as the nation can do better to redress the growing anomalies.
Malnutrition is lethal on the economies of nations as it cripples and kills. This probably accounts for the woeful performance of most countries’ economies as malnourished citizens cannot function optimally. This is the unspeakable tragedy of children around the world, especially in Africa and other developing economies.
Ridding the world of this deadly plague, therefore, would give hope to the vulnerable millions, especially children, the opportunity to live fulfilled lives.
But conquering malnutrition would be a hard task with the current level of poverty and hunger around the world, especially in Africa. The poor cannot afford a balanced diet or any diet at all that will keep the body and soul in harmony.
A Ministry of Health report, last year, disclosed that Nigeria has been ranked second, after India, in the list of countries with the highest cases of malnourished children in the world. It accounts for 10% of the 160million stunted children globally. Studies have also showed that breast milk is a critical tool in tackling malnutrition in children, especially infants.
Since breast milk is widely acknowledged as the most complete form of nutrition for infants, with a range of benefits for infants’ health, growth, immunity and development, this implies that, if there is increased access to breast milk for infants, it would check the number of malnourished children.
Thus, the first task is by fighting poverty and hunger, as well as improving the incomes of individuals and families. Also, government should embark on aggressive enlightenment programmes on how to get a balanced diet.
Furthermore, a national food policy in which nutrition has a special budgetary allocation as suggested by the NSN should be considered in the onerous fight against malnutrition.
Though, good nutrition or healthy diet are not cheap, but the cost to cater for citizens who are malnourished is higher, especially the huge losses in national productivity. Therefore, it is far cheaper to prevent malnutrition than treating it.
Our world is richly endowed and has the capacity to end hunger and malnutrition; collectively and collaboratively, the battle against malnutrition can be won.