Stunting in under 5 children hinders early childhood development, experts

LAIDE AKINBOADE-ORIERE

Nutritionist s have condemned the increase of stunting among 24 million under five children, the increase from 6 million (24.2%) in 2016 to 7.6 million (31.5%) in 2017.

According to National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), United Nations Children Education Funds (UNICEF), a few days ago officially released the results of the fifth Multiple Indicators Cluster Survey (MICS5), conducted in 2016 and 2017. The survey results showed that malnutrition among children under age five has worsened nationwide with the highest concerns in northern states. Child wasting (children who are too thin for their age) increased from 24.2% to 31.5%, while child stunting (children who are too short for their age) increased from 34.8% to 43.6%.

According to Beatrice Eluaka a nutritionist and past President Nutrition Association of Nigeria, said malnutrition is a very serious problem for Nigeria. the indicators use in measuring mal-nutrition include stunting, which means the child is too small for his or her age, the child is too thin for the child age, and low weight.

“Malnutrition is very serious because it doesn’t only affect the child physical growth, it also affect the child brain development. A stunted child would not be able to grow to his or her full potential when he grows. And this is because the first 1,000 days is very important on the development of a child’s brain. A child who is stunted won’t be able to concentrate in school and won’t be able to learn and even what they learnt they won’t be able to comprehend. The ability to work and earn a living is also compromised.

“Stunting is used globally as an indicator for hindering a country’s development. Over 30% of Nigerian children are stunted and it calls for urgent action to be taken by the Federal Government, what it means is that we need to grow our economy and the children are the future. We should know that the greatest contributor to any economic growth is not infrastructure but human capacity. Perfect children today lead to perfect economists tomorrow.

“A child’s development must start from the time of conception and most importantly the first 1,000 days, any malnutrition during this time, it would be very difficult to reverse it. If a child is meant to be a medical doctor before but once a child is stunted, he will end up being a wheel barrow pusher in the market because of stunting the child won’t be able to have his full potential”.

UNICEF Education Specialist, Swadchet Sankey while fielding questions from Businessday in Kano recently, said Early Childhood Education, (ECD), can help to reduce stunting in children and it is the responsibility of every Nigerian, to ensure awareness is created on the advantages of using ECD to reduce stunting.

“It is the right of every child to education and education can help to curb stunting. ECD is the responsibilities of everybody, the parents and teachers. There is need to create more awareness about ECD to the parents and to let them know the benefits of ECD.

“Early nutrition can raise adult wages by 5-50%. A child who escapes stunting has 33% more likely to escape poverty in adulthood. Early learning is a major key strategy to reduce inequality and promote school readiness. Early nutrition programme can increase school completion by 1 year. Reduction in stunting can increase investment for the future.

“Research has shown that children learn primarily through play, and there are play based methods you can use to teach children”.

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