From Sola Ojo, Kaduna
Worried by shocking statistics that over 40 per cent of under-five children in Kaduna State are stunted, the Civil Society-scaling up Nutrition in Nigeria (CS-SUNN) has expressed fear over the calibre of leaders the state will be producing when these children reach adulthood.
Stunted children are the children whose brains are not well developed in the first five years of their life. Experts say while a malnourished child can be treated, a stunted child is immune to treatment, hence the need for prevention.
The Kaduna State Government and development partners like UNICEF believe that exclusive breastfeeding is one critical step that can be taken to prevent stunting in children, necessitating the call and approval of six months maternity leave to give room for exclusive breastfeeding in addition to required nutrient-filled complementary feeding using available local combinations.
The CS-SUNN had a roundtable discussion with conventional and new media partners on the promotion of optimal Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) practices to prevent malnutrition among children under five years in the State.
The coordinator of the organisation in the state, Jessica Bartholomew, said promoting the IYCF is necessary because it is a ‘high impost-effective time’ practice with huge potential in preventing malnutrition among children under five especially around ‘1,000 days window of opportunity.’
To Jessica, the media as a ‘crucial sector’ for effective sensitisation and mobilisation of community members on optimal IYCF practices to ensure uninterrupted growth and development of the child.
She stressed the need for media to support ongoing efforts by health workers and community volunteers in sensitising and mobilising community members, parents, and caregivers on the importance of IYCF.
‘Infant and young child feeding is a major factor in child survival, growth and development.
‘It simply entails putting a child to breast milk within an hour of birth and exclusively breastfeeding for the first six months of life to achieve optimal growth, development and health.
‘To meet the increasing nutritional needs, infants should receive safe and nutritionally adequate complementary foods while breastfeeding continues for up to two years of age or beyond,’ Jessica said.