Thursday, 8 November 2007

Malnutrition is a leading cause in child deaths

A recent release from Population Reference Bureau in Washington D.C. showed that malnutrition plays a prominent role in the deaths of about 16, 000 young children every day, and virtually all of them in the developing world. This a yearly toll of almost six million children lost to malnutrition. According to the report, nearly 50 per cent of all young children in the developing world do not receive enough iron in their diets, endangering their mental and physical development.

"Malnutrition is the underlying cause of millions of deaths, but lacks public recognition because it does not kill young children directly, as does pneumonia or diarrhea," said Bill Butz, PRB's president. "Many of these deaths could be averted through nutrition measures that are known to be effective, often at low cost."

In Nigeria, where fertility rates continue to rise, women give birth to an average of six children during their lifetime. With so many children born annually, the population has skyrocketed. This means that many children are left without the proper nutrition or vitamins needed to fully develop their bodies into adulthood. According to Doctors Without Borders emergency coordinator Ton Koene, malnutrition in Nigeria is a growing and dangerous problem. Koene worked in southern Borno state in Northern Nigeria during a measles epidemic in 2005, and saw first-hand the effects that malnutrition had on the young population. Out of the 2,500 children screened in southern Borno state, between one to two per cent suffered from severe acute malnutrition (SAM).

"This is quite alarming and particularly unacceptable in conflict-free Borno state," said Koene.

Such a high rate of malnutrition is caused by a number of factors. For one, a large number of young mothers stop breastfeeding too early and are unable to give their babies a healthy, varied diet. Chronic food insecurity is another factor. According to Koene, severe droughts throughout the northern region of Nigeria upset the food supplies of families living there.

To respond, Doctors Without Borders set up several therapeutic feeding centers in Borno state to give malnourished children up to eight meals of special high-protein milk around the clock until they gained enough weight to be released. When little ones were too weak to swallow, they were fed through a tube to their stomach or put on a drip. This process lasted up to six weeks.

Koene suggests that in order to prevent the issue of malnutrition in Nigeria, the government has to deal with deeply rooted social and cultural aspects and to get involved into development issues such as agricultural schemes and long-term education.

"The sad part is that so many child deaths can be prevented through micronutrient supplies or a more effective agricultural system," said Koene. "The government just need to implement these things to see a difference."

*Reported by Amanda Hale

1 comment:

dr leke pitan said...

A wondreful write up. Keep it up.
-Dr.'Leke Pitan