Women health

 Nutritional challenges in Nigeria and their solutions

What thoughts do you have in mind when you hear the term "malnutrition"? Little ones with protruding ribs, swollen stomachs, larger-than-life heads, and hungry-appearing eyes?

You may not be aware that malnutrition has another face, one with a double chin and sausage-shaped arms and legs.

Reduce the damage caused The magnitude of the challenges caused by malnutrition is mainly unknown to Nigerians, and caring for something you don't even know about is tough, if not impossible. Malnutrition is a complicated issue.

We must approach the issue holistically in order to find lasting answers because it is not just caused by a lack of food, as most people believe, but also by problems like early marriages and damaging economic and social behaviors.

Malnutrition: What Is It?

According to the dictionary, malnutrition is a bad state of health brought on by a lack of food or the wrong kind of diet. a nutritional condition brought on by consuming too little or too much of a certain nutrient.

Therefore, the misconception that only those in poverty experience hunger is just that—a fallacy! Malnutrition can be categorized as either:

1. The Under Nutrition

This is typically brought on by consuming all of one's food from a single source, such as continuously eating rice and maize, and it can also be brought on by a lack of food or the body's difficulty absorbing nutrients, which are frequently linked to poverty, anorexia, as well as bariatric surgery.

With the start of the structural reform plan (SAP) in 1986, which signaled the beginning of a significant decline in real income and an unmatched increase in food costs, Nigeria's food consumption, both in terms of quantity and quality, has declined noticeably.

When it happens during pregnancy or before a kid is two years old, undernutrition can cause long-term issues with mental and physical growth and raises the risk of infections and diseases. Undernutrition comes in two main forms:

malnutrition that is protein-energy deficient and caused by dietary deficits in any or all areas. Due to poor weaning habits, poverty, unsanitary living conditions, inadequate medical care, and endemic childhood diseases, there are three different varieties of it that are still very common in Nigeria.

2. Severe undernutrition or wasting

The three clinical manifestations of this condition—Marasmus, Kwashiorkor, or Arasmic Kwashiorkor—can all refer to inexplicable rapid weight loss or failure to gain weight regularly. Acute severe malnutrition is indicated by an arm measurement of less than 110 mm.

3. Chronic undernutrition or stunting

This takes place over an extended period of time and has longer-lasting effects. Chronic malnutrition can come from inadequate breastfeeding, infections, and a lack of access to the right nutrients for a growing infant. It can also start before birth as a result of poor maternal health. Due to his incapacity to experience linear growth, the child develops into stunted.

4. Persistent and severe malnutrition

Acute and chronic malnutrition are also present in this situation.

Diseases caused by a lack of specific micronutrients include those caused by micronutrient deficiencies in vitamins A, B, C, and D, calcium, folate, iodine, iron, zinc, and selenium, all of which are crucial for healthy bodily function. Depending on the micronutrient that is deficient, certain symptoms of micronutrient deficiencies may occur.

5. Unhealthy Diet

Overnutrition is a mistake because it leads people to believe that if they consume a lot of calories, their diet will automatically provide all the nutrients they require.

As with undernutrition, overnutrition refers to consuming nutrients in excess of what the body can efficiently absorb. It increases illness susceptibility, lowers worker productivity, and shortens life expectancy.

It is the primary contributor to obesity and frequently triggers side effects including diabetes and heart disease.

Nigerians typically have undernutrition, a kind of malnutrition.

Facts and figures about malnutrition cases in Nigeria

Malnutrition causes more than 50% of under-five mortality among children and women in Nigeria, particularly in the northern region of the country, according to data from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Kaduna.

Facts and figures? Because math has a way of placing things in perspective According to Professor Babatunde Oguntoya, President of the Nutritional Society of Nigeria, 13 to 18 Nigerian children die from malnutrition & related disorders per hour.

According to UNICEF, 2.5 million Nigerian children below the age of five experience severe acute malnutrition (SAM) each year. Of the country's children, 30% are underweight, 90,000 are on the verge of famine, and 6 million are stunted.

As opposed to HIV/AIDS, it has been found that starvation and hunger kill more individuals. Nigeria still held the third-highest global ranking for child mortality in 2017—behind Pakistan and India.

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) says malnutrition is the primary factor in more than 50% of the deaths and morbidities among under-five-year-olds in Nigeria each year, where over 1 million children lose their lives before turning five.

Research done in Zamfara state found that 28.1% of children under the age of five there are underweight and 57.4% of them are stunted. The national averages for these are 29,8% and 17,2%, respectively.

There have been malnourished children in every state of Nigeria, despite the fact that the issue is more prevalent in northern Nigeria. Various surveys of nutritional assessment in Nigeria show low intakes of protein, energy, iron, calcium, zinc, thiamin, and riboflavin including almost all age groups and both sexes.

Nigerian malnutrition's root causes

Malnutrition is caused by a variety of factors, some of which are:

1.  high level of ignorance

The majority of individuals are undernourished not because they lack the funds to buy the proper food, but rather because they are unaware of what that food is.

The majority of kids from wealthy homes turn to junk food, which is typically indigestible and makes them feel full even when they are not. In reality, the more processed food you eat, the more vitamins you need.

People's lack of knowledge about the nutritional value of foods results in poor use of the food supply, which inevitably causes malnutrition.

Some individuals are unaware of the necessity of controlling their diet, eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the appropriate times to prevent indigestion.

2. Abject poverty

Knowing what foods to consume but not being able to purchase them is the main cause of malnutrition in rural communities.

Due to poverty and the deadly terrorist group Boko Haram's actions, which have caused the devastation of people, crops, and property, the majority of youngsters in Nigeria's northern region are malnourished.

3. Heritable diseases

diseases such as dysphagia, which makes it difficult to swallow and prevents the body from absorbing the nutrients it needs, cancer, malaria, which makes you lose appetite, etc.

4. Making poor lifestyle decisions

Some people have forgotten the value of exercise as a result of the sedentary lifestyle that is now the norm thanks to the internet. Some people with 9 to 5 jobs who are workaholics frequently skip meals without realizing the long-term consequences.

5. Nervousness

Lack of sleep can contribute to poor digestion and, as a consequence, malnutrition, as can a cramped sleeping room and low ceilings.

6. Abuse of Alcohol or Drugs

Since alcohol has more calories than either protein or carbs but no vitamins, minerals, protein, fats, or carbohydrates, it replaces better-for-you foods in the diet.

7. Pregnant women's unbalanced diets

Stunting severely impairs the cognitive senses, which permanently restricts not only the physical but also the cognitive faculties of the future citizens of our country. Pregnant women who are not sufficiently nourished will eventually give birth to babies of low weight, further endangering the babies' survival.

8. Dietary limitations and taboos

The consumption of eggs by children is frowned upon in various cultures. They are denied the majority of protein-rich foods, such as chicken, fish, and meat, because these are only available to adults, while the children, who are more in need of these nutrients given their ongoing developmental stages, observe.

9. Lack of Hygiene

10. Increased population


Malnutrition has an impact on a child's brain development and intelligence level, which limits their capacity to study and become productive adults since malnourished children cannot actually sustainably grow a nation.

Most newborn and young child fatalities are caused by malnutrition and accompanying illnesses (diarrhea, measles, anemia, and gastroenteritis).

In Nigeria, nutrition-related illnesses are still a major public health concern since they directly reduce productivity, delay economic growth, and prolong poverty.

Malnutrition in its worst forms can cause organ failure. Additional consequences of starvation include:

  • A low birth weight (LBW) - Malnutrition has been associated with LBW, albeit it is not the only factor in its development.
  • dead body
  • lowered ability to fight infection
  • reduced intellectual growth
  • Body mass index decreased due to undernutrition
  • high body mass index due to overeating
  • A change in the hair's texture
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Alopecia
  • anxiety and depression
  • No or little libido
  • Obstetricians' difficult labor
  • Apathy

How Can Nigeria Fight Malnutrition?

The Federal Government of Nigeria approved 4 billion nairas in 2016 to combat malnutrition in North-East Nigeria, and the Aliko Dangote Foundation committed to spending 100 million dollars, or 36 billion nairas, in the middle of 2017 to reduce the incidence of undernutrition by 60% in the most affected regions of Nigeria.

Since it was first implemented in Nigeria, the Community-based Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) program has provided care to over two million children. Despite all of these efforts, however, malnutrition continues to be a serious problem in the nation, and a long-term solution appears to be elusive. Among the potential remedies for the malnutrition problem are:

1. Agriculture

To be able to eat the produce we grow, we must all be encouraged to take up small-scale farming. The government should provide rural farmers with more assistance through high producer prices and input incentives in addition to enhancing rural lending programs (such as the People's Bank) that are geared toward the poor.

2. Empowering women

Women should be educated that the time of waiting for the husband to bring money home to take care of the children is long gone because, in the event that the husband is missing, such families are typically plunged into extreme poverty. Women's empowerment is a step toward overcoming malnutrition and poverty together.

3. Food Supplementation

This is distinct from genetically modified food because it involves cross-breeding plants and their varieties, which has the dual advantages of being able to provide nutrients to significant portions of the population without necessitating significant changes in food consumption habits and introducing a distribution method for these fortified foods, particularly for children and pregnant women.

The development of iodized salt, which lowered if not entirely eliminated iodine deficiency—the primary cause of mental impairment—is an example of food fortification.

4. Planning your family

More food is sufficient for a family the fewer mouths it must feed.

5. Programs for Sensitization

This is really important; we should broadcast more discussion shows on radio and television, visit more remote places, and educate people there about the value of eating the correct foods by encouraging them to consume more plant-based foods, fruits, and vegetables.

We must provide women and other caregivers culinary demonstrations so they may learn how to make wholesome meals using ingredients like soybeans, millet, and groundnuts.

6. Promote exclusive breastfeeding for a minimum of six months.

Mothers should indeed be encouraged to exclusively breastfeed their infants because this practice offers a critical supply of micronutrients that has been scientifically shown to support children's immune systems and offer long-term protection against non-communicable and allergic disorders.

Additionally, breastfeeding has been demonstrated to enhance children's cognitive skills, and this improvement is strongly correlated with each child's academic success.

incorporating nutrition instruction into educational curricula and basic health care programs

Important Nutritional Studies

Stunting and underweight malnutrition increased the probability of performing poorly on IQ tests, according to a study done in Plateau state, Nigeria, to ascertain the association between nutritional status and IQ of school-age children in the state.

Another study conducted in the state of Edo revealed that inadequate nutrition lowers children's intellectual capacity, interest in the environment, and motor development.

Summary of findings

All hands must be on deck if the battle against malnutrition is ever to be won. Health professionals, religious and traditional leaders, as well as the general public, all have a role to play if this threat is ever going to be a thing of the past.

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