Why Nutrition Is Critical To Human Growth.

The demand for increased investment in nutrition programs has increased in Nigeria as the country continues to struggle with a serious public health issue related to malnutrition.

Stunting, wasting, and underweight are all symptoms of malnutrition, which happens when a person's diet does not supply enough nutrients or the proper mix of nutrients for optimal health. Malnutrition can also occur when a person's food does not give enough nutrients.

What Is Nutrition?

Nutrition is the science that deals with the study of food and its effect on the body in terms of health, growth, and development. It involves understanding how different nutrients are obtained from food, how they are digested, absorbed, and utilized by the body for various functions.

Nutrients are the substances found in food that are essential for the body's proper functioning. They include macronutrients such as carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, which provide energy, as well as micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals, which are needed in smaller amounts for specific bodily functions.

Good nutrition is important for maintaining overall health and well-being. It plays a crucial role in growth and development, supports the immune system, and helps prevent various diseases. Proper nutrition involves consuming a balanced diet that provides an adequate amount of all essential nutrients while avoiding excessive intake of unhealthy substances such as added sugars, unhealthy fats, and sodium.

According to the National Demographic Health Survey (NDHS), retardation in Nigeria was 42% in 2003, 41% in 2008, and 37% in 2013 and 2018.

Nutrition experts say that nutrition is crucial to Human Capital Development (HCD) and that investing in mother and child nutrition from birth is necessary to advance HCD in the country.

Sunday Okoronkwo, executive secretary of the Civil Society Scaling-Up Nutrition in Nigeria (CS-SUNN), said malnutrition affects mental and physical health and work outcomes.

What is Malnutrition?

Malnutrition refers to a condition where a person's diet lacks essential nutrients, such as proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals, that are necessary for the body's proper functioning and growth. It can occur when an individual's intake of nutrients is insufficient, imbalanced, or poorly absorbed by the body. Malnutrition can affect people of all ages, but it is particularly harmful to children, pregnant women, and the elderly.

There are two main types of malnutrition:

  1. Undernutrition: This type of malnutrition occurs when the body does not receive enough nutrients overall. It can result from a prolonged lack of food or an inadequate intake of essential nutrients. Undernutrition can lead to stunted growth, weight loss, weakened immune system, fatigue, and increased susceptibility to infections.

  2. Overnutrition: Overnutrition refers to the excessive intake of nutrients, particularly calories, which leads to an imbalance in the body. This can result in obesity, which is associated with a higher risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer.

Malnutrition can have severe health consequences if left untreated. It can impair physical and cognitive development, weaken the immune system, increase the risk of infections, and hinder overall well-being. Factors contributing to malnutrition include poverty, lack of access to nutritious food, inadequate healthcare, poor sanitation, and certain medical conditions that affect nutrient absorption or increase nutrient requirements.

Addressing malnutrition requires a multifaceted approach that includes improving access to nutritious food, promoting proper breastfeeding practices, enhancing agricultural and food production systems, providing nutritional supplements, and ensuring adequate healthcare and sanitation. Public health interventions and awareness programs play a crucial role in preventing and treating malnutrition on a global scale.

Also Read: 11 Health Benefits Of Cloves For Men

He said a hungry, undernourished child may not respond well to treatment, may have mild to serious learning disabilities, and may perform poorly in school, consuming household income, affecting productivity at work, and adversely affecting the country's economic growth and development.
In 2018, Nigeria established the Nigerian Human Capital Investment (HCI) Committee and Core Working Group (CWG), which the SC-SUNN praised.

The CWG set a Human Capital Development (HCD) vision for “Healthy, Educated and Productive Nigerians for a globally competitive nation by 2030” with a goal of 24 million additional healthy (under-five year old children surviving and not stunted), educated (completing secondary school), and productive (youth entering the labor force) Nigerians by 2030.
CS-SUNN worried that Nigeria will not accomplish its HCD vision, which will help achieve the SDGs by 2030, if nourishment is not prioritized.

The 2018 World Bank Human Capital Index placed Nigeria 152nd out of 157. However, the aforementioned alarming facts indicate that the country's HCD aims were slow to achieve and that nutrition was not prioritized to boost economic growth.

During a one-day media roundtable on RESET Nutrition for Human Capital Development in Nigeria in Abuja, Okoronkwo requested the CS-SUNN's support to help Nigeria strengthen nutrition outcomes and address some of the obstacles to nutrition improvements.

"The Partnership for Improving Nigeria Nutrition Systems 2.0 (PINNS-2.0) project is underway," he stated. The PINNS-2.0 project hypothesizes that when government sustainably commits to improving nutrition through strong nutrition administration, it will regularly provide data for planning and decision making and provide suitable domestic financing to effectively deliver nutrition services.A well-nourished infant will grow up to boost the country's GDP, meeting HCD goals.

The three-year initiative in Kaduna, Nasarawa, Niger, Kano, and Lagos states will develop nutrition frameworks for governance, data management, nutrition funding, and Civil Society Alliances in Nigeria and African nations like Kenya and Ethiopia. CS-SUNN will help nutrition organizations.

Okoronkwo cited inadequate nutrition data to guide real-time decisions that will impact nutrition in the country, weak nutrition governance, and low political will to adequately implement and fund nutrition policies and plans.

He also cited gender imbalance in health and nutrition as a problem.

The media roundtable educated the media on how RESET (Result-Oriented, Effective, Serviceable, Efficient, and Transparent) nutrition may help Nigeria meet HCD targets.

Jenny Young

623 Blog posts