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Give your child the right nutrition to thrive

Nutrition plays a key role in the growth and development of a child. While it is important to ensure that your child is fed, giving him the right foods is twice as necessary for overall wellness.

Infant nutritionist and Nigerian baby food manufacturer, Mrs. Oluwatoyin Onigbanjo, said that over one million Nigerian children have been reported to be malnourished and many lost to the scourge. Thirty-five per cent of Nigerian children are stunted while 25 per cent are wasting due to lack of access and inadequate information on preparing nutritious, home-cooked meals for children from zero to five years, even for as low as of exclusive breastfeeding.

“The recent Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICs) by the National Bureau of Statistics and UNICEF showed that health issues related to malnutrition can also do lifelong harm and the spate of malnutrition cuts across children, who are too thin for their age, children who are too short for their age and children who are too thin for their height.

“The report showed that underweight prevalence‎ has increased from 24.2 per cent to 31.5 per cent, stunting prevalence increased from 34.8 per cent to 43.6 per cent while wasting prevalence increased marginally from 10.2 per cent to10.8 per cent.”

For Onigbanjo, the major concern of nutrition over the years has been on the need for more children to be exclusively breastfed for the first six months and a nutritious intake of complementary meals and school lunches. “Some efforts to reduce the rate of malnutrition had been directed towards children in the rural areas, especially in the North West and North East in Nigeria due to the high incidences of terrorist attacks and Internally Displaced Persons.

“Unfortunately, for other areas of the country, a challenge that is often overlooked is the lack of a nutritious feeding culture amongst children living in urban areas and children of the average Nigerian with middle to high income. All children need is a well-balanced meal that consist of all the classes of food in it right proportions. Feeding children is beyond just filling their tummies, but food is essential to growth and health.

“Most Nigerian mothers make only one or two types of food for their children all week, which is not healthy enough. From a manual research with crèche and school owners, most mothers pack only noodles, spaghetti, pastries, fizzy drinks, biscuits and plantain for a child all week. This makes the child lack more than 30 per cent of major nutrients like protein, iron and fibre needed that he could have got from real and gently-processed foods such as beans & potato porridges, brown rice meal, groundnuts, fresh yoghurt and puddings from grains.

“For young children, nutrition play a vital role in the development of the child. For example, Iron, which is present in foods like liver, beef, fish, and green vegetables, helps with the constant growing immune system and bodybuilding. Iron helps to build the brain, blood and also aids growth and development of the body system. Economic class should not determine how well you should feed your child, as our local foods such as yam, sweet potatoes, beans, acha, Bambara nuts, sesame seeds, fruits like pawpaw, and so on, can provide adequate nourishment for children in an affordable way.”

Onigbanjo added that nutrition should be a paramount issue to everyone because improperly fed children would grow up to be not very active and its causes various deficiency to child growth and development.

Malnutrition is a problem that affects even the children of the rich, but most people are unaware of this. A child who feeds daily on fast foods such as pastries, cakes and fizzy drinks is at a high risk of malnutrition and a scourge known as over-nutrition and obesity, as most of the seasonings used in making the foods are highly-processed and full of strange chemicals.

“Some parent feeds their children with mostly sweet and all sorts of junks, while there are fruits and some other food items that are not costly but most people overlook them because they don’t know how beneficial they are to their children’s health.”

In this article:
Oluwatoyin OnigbanjoUNICEF
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