Ms Oluwatosin Akomolafe, Knowledge Management Advisor with Save the Children, an NGO, has identified malnutrition as a major enemy of a child’s physical and cognitive development.
Akomolafe told newsmen on Saturday in Abuja that if children do not receive adequate nutrition they could become stunted and susceptible to infections.
She said that the first 1,000 days of a child’s life provided an opportunity to chart the course of a child’s life, both in physical and cognitive development.
“ The first 1,000 days, which is a period between conception and the second birthday, is crucial and provides a window to chart every child’s life development.
“Outside of this window, any damage to the child’s physical and cognitive development is irreversible; they become stunted and susceptible to infections in childhood.
“They can suffer malnutrition which can be under-nutrition, over-nutrition or micro-nutrition and are also more likely to suffer chronic diseases such as heart diseases and obesity in their adulthood,’’ Akomolafe said.
She said that an undernourished child would get sucked into a vicious cycle of under-nutrition; they become stunted adolescent with poor cognitive development and under-perform in school.
According to her, as an adult, a stunted individual will be two per cent to 2.4 per cent less productive than their peers, and consequently earn less income, losing cumulatively at least 10 per cent of their lifetime earnings.
The knowledge management adviser said that a stunted adult female, was also likely to give birth to an underweight child, thereby entrenching a vicious cycle of malnutrition.
Akomolafe noted that malnutrition had a wider and long-term impact on the society and on individuals, adding that it had also been found to have economic and social cost on the society.
“Globally, about 155 million children under the age of five suffer from stunting with a high burden of stunted children in sub-Sahara Africa.
“In Nigeria, the prevalence of stunting is 44 per cent with about six million children stunted, therefore, the first 1,000 days is the critical period for both economic and cognitive deficits,’’ she said.
Akomolafe said that determinants of under-nutrition in children included poverty, food and nutrition insecurity, access to care and environment.
She said the Child Development Grant Programme (CDGP), which the NGO is currently spearheading, was aimed at tackling poverty and hunger as well as reducing malnutrition in children under-five years of age.
Akomolafe said the programme also targeted pregnant women from the moment pregnancy was confirmed until the child reaches two years of age.