Each year, no fewer than 1 million Nigerian children die before their 5th birthday, with malnutrition contributing to nearly half of these deaths.
Is your child getting enough nutrients?
When it comes to baby feeding, quality is definitely better than quantity, especially during the first 1000 days of a child’s life (from pregnancy to 2 years old).
This is the most critical age when every child needs adequate nutrition. Beyond this age, the effects of malnutrition are irreversible, leading to poor physical and mental development, weakened immune system, recurrent and severe diarrhoea, acute respiratory infections, and an increased risk of infant mortality.
A parent can tell if their child is not getting enough nutrients if the child is underweight, too short for their age (stunted), or too thin for their height (wasted). These are the three key indicators for assessing the nutritional status of children.
According to the Nigerian Demographic and Health Survey 2013, 37 % Of Nigerian children are stunted; while 18% are wasted, an indication of the high level of malnutrition in the country, which has been described as a “silent crisis”.
Head of Nutrition, Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH), Dr. Chris Osa Isokpunwu, said that when the rate of wasting is more than 10 percent in any nation, “it is regarded as a nutritional emergency”.
What are the right nutrients for your child?
Mothers are encouraged to put their babies to the breast in the first half-hour after birth and breastfeed them exclusively and on demand for the first six months, without any other foods or liquids or even water.
After 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding, in order to ensure consumption of essential nutrients in children, the Federal Ministry of Health recommends the FOUR STAR diet plan. This was developed under the National Nutrition Green Ribbon Campaign, as part of the strategies for a 50 percent reduction in malnutrition by 2025. Consumption of a four star diet among children aged 6-23 months combats malnutrition.
The Four Star Diet
This is a meal plan where the servings at each meal (breakfast, lunch, dinner or in-between), must contain nutrients from the four major food groups. This way your child gets nutrients from the four main groups as part of an enriched complementary feeding.
Cereals, starchy roots and tubers (cassava, potatoes), plantain, wheat, maize, millet, sorghum, rice, etc.
Vegetable protein sources, beans, lentils, peas, groundnuts, sesame, nuts of all types.
3. Animal protein sources:
Milk and milk products, eggs, fish of all types, meat of all types, poultry, snail group, etc
4. Fruits and vegetables sources:
Fruits of varied colours, leafy and non-leafy vegetables of all colours.
Examples are mango, papaya, passion fruit, oranges, dark-green leaves, carrots, yellow sweet potato, pumpkin, banana, pineapple, watermelon, tomatoes, avocado, eggplant, cabbage, etc.