In this edition of Let Us Know (LUK), IJMA Blog Co-Editor Eta Ashu encounters Adedotun Owolabi, a young, dynamic and ambitious public health scientist who discusses the urgent need to address child health and Nutrition in Nigeria. 

LUK: If the Global Health and Education Projects, Inc. (GHEP) were implement one project in the field of maternal and child health in developing countries, specifically in Nigeria, what would you recommend?

Answer: New findings estimate that nearly 4 in 10 Nigerian children of less than five years of age are stunted, the second highest rate of arrested development in the world, and the highest in Africa.

Child health in Nigeria requires a holistic approach as the later life of any child depends on its onset. Nutrition being the major factor that cuts across human life cycle from pregnancy to infancy through childhood unto adulthood has lost professional and important attention. Malnutrition is an important determinant of maternal and Child health, it encompasses stunting, wasting and deficiencies of essential minerals and vitamins (collectively refer to as micronutrients). Malnutrition, besides weakening the immune system accounts for a high level of morbidity and mortality especially among children under the ages of 5.

Malnutrition in Nigeria accounts for over 50% under 5 morbidity rate, the cause of this high level of malnutrition  includes inappropriate breast feeding (exclusive breastfeeding rate of 13%); and inappropriate use of complementary feeds. Seven in ten (76 percent) of children aged age 6-9 months receive complementary foods, but most time it’s given too early or too late with local gruels that are not standardized. Thirty five percent of Nigerian babies receive complementary feeds that are inadequate in energy, protein, and micronutrients such as iron, zinc, iodine and vitamin A. Micronutrient deficiencies are reported as follows; iron – 76.1%, vitamin A – 29.5%, zinc – 12.8%.

LUK: What is the Way Forward? Are you advocating for Intense Nutrition?

Answer: Beyond providing the tools for stemming the tide of malnourishment and eliminating child morbidity and mortality occurrence, there is a need for intensive awareness campaigns on the impact of poor nutrition on child health, short and long term consequences of poor nutrition in children. Advocacy should include seminars/presentations on nutrition for the first 1000 days of life. Target groups should include adult of marriageable ages and pregnant women receiving anti natal and post natal.

Exclusive breastfeeding should be advocated for the first six months of life because growth faltering, malnutrition and infection have been observed to set in at about the sixth month, when complementary feeding is introduced. Most deaths from malnutrition occur in the first two years of the baby’s life.

Enlightenment is essential both in urban and rural settings as there are some residents who may have the means but due to ignorance or negligence do not give their children the appropriate food they need to aid their proper growth and help them start out healthy early in life. Most places of work in Nigeria do not have crèches for the mothers to keep their babies and breastfeed; this in turn does not in any way encourage the practice of exclusive breastfeeding among busy mothers. Workplaces should be encouraged make it a policy to have crèches.

The life of children should be given the urgent attention it deserves for the healthy growth of the next generation.

About Owolabi Joshus Adedotun

Adedotun Owolabi is a young dynamic and ambitious public health scientist, a graduate of food science and technology from the Federal University of Technology, Akure, Ondo State, Nigeria. He holds a master’s degree in human nutrition from Nigeria’s premier university, University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria.

His research interest lies between the intersections of child health and nutrition, nutrition education concerning prevailing health problems and the methods of preventing and controlling them, promotion of food and nutrition security, maternal and child care, including family planning, prevention and control of locally endemic and epidemic diseases.

Adedotun Owolabi has been selected by the United Nations information service, Geneva, to participate at the 2015 edition of graduate study program. He is a recipient of an excellence award offered by Nigerian top executives in the medicine and pharmaceutical industries based on his international business network strength.