By Chioma Obinna
NIGERIAN parents have been urged to endeavour to feed their children optimally to enable them get adequate nourishment as against the practice whereby adults in the family are fed at the expense of the children.
Making the call in Abeokuta during a three-day stakeholdersâ€™ meeting for integration and bridging of missed opportunities in Vitamin A Supplementation and other essential nutrition activities in Lagos State, the State Nutrition Officer, Dr Abimbola Ajayi, who noted that Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) is a silent killer, said by the time a child gets to SAM, everybody tries to save the child but as at moderate and mild level of Acute malnutrition, people see most of those children as okay.
â€œIf you show a child that is malnourished to somebody, he or she may not believe that the child is malnourished but will say the child is fine. But this same child has started losing essential things that is relevant to livelihood and for optimal productivity in adulthood. For instance, if you have a child that is deficient in iodine, the brain is going gradually.”
According to her, in a child deficient in Vitamin A, the immune system would have dropped so low that any disease is going to make that that susceptible to death. â€œThis is the reason Lagos State is taking SAM very seriously. The statistics is staggering. It is everywhere. We come across it and we see it. But we in Lagos State are saying it is not acceptable and it should not remain that way.â€
Commending the Lagos State governmentâ€™s efforts in trying to ensure that children survive, Ajayi siad the screening of children for malnutrition has begun. â€œWe have started intervening in the issue by suppling with high energy biscuits, plumping nuts and referring the serious ones to our stabilisation centres, which is the first one in Lagos state and we are planning to scale up and that is the Massey Street Childrenâ€™s Hospital. The Hospital has been trained to manage severe acute malnoutrition cases of and there is also the â€œfishing of the Moderately Malnourished Children (MMC) initiativeâ€.
On possible causes of the increase in the incidences of severe acute malnutrition country and Lagos in particular, she explained like this: â€œI think a lot has to do with the economic situation of our country particularly now it will even be worse because of the economic melt down.
But with little children I donâ€™t believe that there should be melting down that will affect them because they donâ€™t even eat too much if only people know the right thing to give them.
â€œIn a family setting a child is the one that will get the least because that child cannot demand. You also see a situation where you find parents eating more than their children particularly fathers. I am sorry to say this but it is how it is with our culture because they believe is the man that brings the money and he must it the biggest food.
â€œBut it should not be particular food that should nourish a child like meat and fish. I even look at from the angle of the child.Â It is the responsibility of the parent to make sure the child is properly taken care of.
So we need to change that orientation. It is not something new. It has always been there but it is worse now because of the economic situation but then we should look at it that children donâ€™t require too much.
So we should give the little they require so that they can survive.â€
On the objective of the meeting and expected outcomes, Ajayi opined that vitamin A supplementation with other essential nutrition activities remains an essential protocol in addressing child survival issues in primary care delivery and in reducing high childhood mortality and morbidity .
â€œIt is expected that all children under five years in the state be provided with two doses of the high dose Vitamin A supplements,per annum until age five. Similarly, there is high disparity between the knowledge and skills of health workers in the implementation of the other key nutrition actions.
The meeting was called to develop sustainable work plan with specific roles for stakeholders/desk officers for improved vitamin A coverage for target population and agree on modalities to improve the delivery of essential nutrition activities in the state.Â
The meeting was also to sensitise nutrition focal persons on Management of Severe/Moderate Acute Malnutrition (SAM/MAM) and Zincfant (Zinc supplementation in management of household level diarrhoea). She was regretful that many parents donâ€™t seek help until their children are in a difficult situation. â€œThey should go to the clinics let their children be screened for the level of malnutrition that a child is.â€