Malnutrition: A silent pandemic ravaging children

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Read full article by Justina Asishana @ The Nation Photo Source: www.who.int

Malnutrition remains a silent pandemic ‘consuming’ children in Nigeria. It is mostly being fueled by ignorance of parents and caregivers, poverty, inadequate food intake and poor sanitation, among others. COVID-19 may have stopped a lot of things, but it did not stop malnutrition, writes Justina Asishana
Thirty-six-year-old Aisha Isah was beaming sunnily. This was the first time in weeks that she could smile after being told that her son, Ibrahim, was out of the woods and would survive his battle with acute malnutrition.

Initially, when she noticed there was something wrong with him, she began self-medication on him, administering herbal remedies. But he gradually deteriorated, becoming more bones than flesh. Taking him for orthodox care became a last resort when all else failed.

Aisha did not know that her son was being ravaged by malnutrition until he became too weak to eat or drink anything. This made her take him to the Minna General Hospital, where one of the Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) Centres in Niger State is located.

After the doctor examined him, Aisha said that she was directed to the SAM Centre for further examination, “then they told me that my son had severe acute malnutrition and needed urgent care.”

According to anthropometric measurements, a three-year-old like Ibrahim should be weighing about 14kg. But he weighed 6kg when he was tested at the SAM Centre. His mid-upper arm measurement (MUAC) was 10 cm indicating red which meant the child was acutely malnourished.

“When he was admitted, he had to be fed through a tube in his nose, because they said his case was very serious and he could not take food through his mouth. They asked me why I didn’t bring him earlier and I told them I thought the problem was that he was teething, so I was using herbs. It was at the hospital that they explained to me what malnutrition is, “ she said.

Two weeks after he was brought in, Ibrahim was discharged and followed up strictly with checkups.

“I am happy that today, the nurses told me that Ibrahim is finally out of danger and is now weighing 14.2 kg, which is the required weight for his age. I am so happy, my mind is finally at ease. What would I have done if I didn’t know what was wrong with him and he died?”

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) in an April 1, 2020, report, across the world, “47 million children under 5 years of age are wasted, 14.3 million are severely wasted and 144 million are stunted, while 38.3 million are overweight or obese……..

Current hike of food prices May increase malnutrition

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, nutritionists and other health officials have advised the public to eat well to maintain a strong immune system. But with the prices of food items rising due to scarcity as a result of measures to curb the virus spread, many people are not able to afford fresh and nutritious foods. The hike of foodstuffs may also be related to the flooding in parts of the country which have caused the destruction and washing away of over five million acres of farmlands of rice, maize, millet, sorghum and other crops across Nigeria.

A market survey showed that corn which is usually used for cornmeal for children has risen by N200 as it was formerly N150 before the COVID-19. It now sells for N350 to N400 while Soya beans which are nutritious in making soya-milk for children have risen by N150. It is now selling for N350 as against N200 it was previoussly sold for.

Mrs Abigail Okoli sells millet now for N400 as against N150 that it was sold for in early February.

This report was supported by the Africa Women Journalism Project (AWJP) in partnership with the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ)

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Posted on

October 12, 2020

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