Time to curb child malnutrition in Borno

One of the basic units of every society and sought by every nation for its development is a productive child who is also considered by many as a jewel. However, many developing countries, especially Nigeria, have a poor nutritional management system which results in malnutrition.

Malnutrition is a long term and deadly threat to children. It is an impairment of health due to deficiency, excess or imbalance of nutrients that can handicap physiological processes and evidenced by changes that can be detected by clinical tests. Malnutrition happens as a result of under nutrition, in other word, under consumption of food and poor utilisation of nutrients in food.

This often leads to starvation which is extreme under-nutrition so also over nutrition characterised by over-consumption of food of one or more of nutrients commonly referred to the excessive intake of potential energy but maybe used to indicate excess dietary sugar, fat, vitamins or minerals.

Eating exclusively one particular food without any other due to lack of proper nutritional education or from having access to a single food source greatly contributes to this.

Mothers, especially pregnant women, breast feeding mothers and the nation’s jewel, children between the ages of three months to five years are seen as the ones that are at the risk of being affected by the development.

The issue of malnutrition is very common in Borno state, especially in Maiduguri, the state capital, where many Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) reside. The case has raised huge concern among humanitarian agencies in the state in view of its negative consequences on the life of the affected persons.

This is visible among some residents and many IDPs in Maiduguri. Excess consumption of a particular food is very rampant as only few items such as raw corn, millet, rice, groundnut oil, Maggi and some token are made available to them. It was observed during a visit to the IDP camps and some communities that, very few utilised the item wisely. It appears that, only few people know how to prepare nutritious food while others sold the items and eventually cripple in malnutrition.

Despite interventions by governments at all levels and of course, non-governmental organisations, there are still many cases of malnutrition in the Borno state capital. A child who is supposed to survive on a minimum of three square meals, barely eats two or ends up eating nothing.

 Definitely, a child who is poorly fed will ever be helpless-irresistible to hunger and can be susceptible to recruitment on the hands of insurgents. These children are supposed to be at school, play among their peers, go on errands or do as they wish end up being crumbled or mostly settle at one position. They hardly stretch for a toy. The worst part of it is malnourished children in Maiduguri hardly recognise signals or give alert when they want to attend nature’s call.

In order to curb this growing challenge which is a serious threat on the future of children in Borno state and the country in general, government at all levels, NGOs and wealthy individuals have to intervene, especially now that the state government is trying to resettle the IDPS.

 Indeed, immediate government intervention will be of great help as Robert Chapman affirms that an intervention through government policies is a necessary ingredient for curtailing global population growth. Not only foods should be provided but also nutritional education as there is always the need to regulate intake.

On the other hand, the mass media have a critical role to play in addressing the malnutrition by creating awareness and educating people through programmes and jingles on the importance of  giving nutritious food to their children for healthy living.

Zainab Yetunde Adam,

Maiduguri, Borno state

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