Nutritionist in Lagos, Lucy Akinkotu, has advised all Nigerian to take the issue of proper nutrition seriously as means to stem malnutrition
She made the call while speaking to newsmen, adding that nutrition education as a subject should be introduced in schools, among families and communities
According to her, this will reduce the level of malnutrition in the country.
Akinkotu, who is also a Director, Nutrition and Health Promotion, Ondo State Primary and Healthcare Development Board, Akure, decried the high rate of stunting, overweight and wasting, especially in under-five children, as a result of malnutrition.
The United Nation Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates that every single day, Nigeria loses about 2,300 under-fives and 145 women of child-bearing age, making Nigeria the second largest contributor to under-five deaths and maternal mortality rate in the world.
Also, UNICEF’s estimates showed that Nigeria has been adversely affected by Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM), with the number of malnourished children put at 2,539,704.
The Nutrition specialist described malnutrition as the absence of the right quantity and quality of food that people consume.
Akinkotu identified poor feeding practices, such as inadequate breastfeeding, offering the wrong foods, and not ensuring that the child gets enough nutritious food, as common causes of malnutrition.
“It is quite alarming to note that a large percentage of the young children in Nigeria is either undernourished or micro-nutrient deficient, while some even suffer from over-nourishment, otherwise called obesity.
“We cannot continue to fold our hands and stand aloof with such issues staring us in the face, most especially, when those affected are vulnerable in society.
Nutrition education is very important because people may have the food and they do not know the right combination. Just like a diet might be balanced but not adequate, as it must be in the right quality and quantity.
“For instance, the food given to a child immediately after birth is breast milk, as it contains all the right nutrients the child needs at that point in time, before the age of five.
“Immediately after the onset of breastfeeding, a complimentary diet is required to make the child grow normally.
Akinkotu said that the first 1000 days of life was the most critical to the growth and development of a child.
“There is a need for mothers and would-be-mothers to be educated because they have the foods within their localities but due to lack of education, they do not know the right combinations, especially for under-five children.
“That is the window of opportunity for a child to grow and develop.
“Three quarter of the brain develops before the age of two and anything that is badly done before that age is irreversible and irreparable.
“Nutrition education should even be taught in schools because these students should also know the right foods to eat and it will help them when they grow to become mothers and fathers,’’ she said.