Lagos State accounts for about 2,000 children with stunted growth due to malnutrition, Ada Ezeogu, United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) Nutrition Specialist, said on Saturday.
Consequently, Mrs Ezeogu said it was imperative to ensure that the numbers don’t continue to increase because stunting affected both the physical growth and cognitive development of children.
Stunting and Wasting are health conditions derived on a child as a result of malnutrition.
Mrs Ezeogu spoke at a Media Advocacy Meeting by the National Orientation Agency (NOA), in collaboration with UNICEF.
The two-day programme, attended by 50 media practitioners, was held in Patron Hotel, Lekki, Sangotedo, with thrust on COVAX and RI (Routine Immunisation) Uptake in Lagos State.
She said: “Once the effect of stunting has set in, it is irreversible and cannot be changed and this compromises the child both in height, physical development and cognitive development.
“So, you will not get the best from that child and that child will not achieve their full potential in life.
“Also, there are implications for onset of adult non-communicable diseases like diabetes, and a tendency for a stunted or malnourished child to have it later in life,” she said.
The specialist said that stunting had implications that went beyond childhood even unto adulthood, which was why it should be prevented as much as possible.
“Once there is malnutrition, the child easily falls sick and the immune system is also compromised, increasing health cost because the child will be taken often to hospital.
“Also, that child may not be as good as one who is fully nourished in school and by implication, results in repetition of class. So all these have economic impacts in the economy and in the school system.
“So, if you have a child repeating or not paying attention fully or their attention span is reduced as a result of malnutrition, then you have implication for the education system and the health system,” she said.
Mrs Ezeogu also said that the percentage of wasting in Lagos was higher than the global target of less than five per cent, stating that for Lagos to have a 6.4 per cent, that translated into about 200,000 children in numbers.
“Immediately a child is screened and found to be severely malnourished, the child should be referred to a health centre.
“Fortunately, Lagos is already doing something with the management of Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM).
“They are using the ready-to-use therapeutic food and if there are underlying conditions, they will be treated.
“We encourage mothers to take these children immediately to health facilities for attention because for wasting, if these children are not treated on time, we may lose them,” the specialist said.
However, Mrs Ezeogu said there was no designated centre for SAM in the state but pointed out that the intervention programme could be found within some hospitals.
“I am aware that Mercy Children Hospital has a ward where they treat children with SAM and they were trained to handle such cases,” she said.
The specialist urged the Lagos State government to increase screening, to identify such children from the communities and also increase the number of health workers who had the skills to screen children.
“By so doing, there will be timely intervention and those children affected can be identified early enough and referred to a health care centre,” she said.
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