Pre-school children are at highest risk and 76.1% of children in Nigeria, aged six months to five years, are affected
Towards tackling under nutrition which is high in Nigeria, with a particular focus on iron deficiency in young children and women of childbearing age, Nigerians have been urged to consume foods that are rich in micronutrients such as iron, vitamin A, iodine and zinc as they are essential for growth and development.
Consultant Paediatrician, Lagos University Teaching Hospital Idi-Araba, Prof. Edamisan Temiye who gave the charge in Lagos recently during a Nestle Scientific Symposium tagged “ Preventing Iron Deficiency in Nigeria “ revealed that foods like Ewedu, meat, fish and egg are rich in essential nutrients that can help tackle iron deficiency.
Reeling out the health implications associated with irony deficiency particularly among women and children , Temiye, pointed out that iron deficiency has serious negative effect on the brain of the child. According to him, iron deficiency anaemia prevents the baby from learning and damages the baby’s intelligence for life, adding that it also contributes to the risk of infection as well as risk of dying for both the baby and the mother.
Temiye who was the guest speaker on the occasion, noted that generally, micronutrient deficiencies have become more widespread especially in the developing countries of the world with over two billion people approximated to be suffering from it.
He however attributed the increase to economic hardship and food insecurities, adding that children less than five years of age, adolescents, women of childbearing age, particularly the pregnant and lactating mothers were those mostly at risk. Charting the way forward ,Temiye said: “We have food in our environment that can prevent iron deficiency like Ewedu, meat, fish and egg. They have enough iron that when a child takes it, the child gets better. So from the age of six months, mothers should start introducing these foods to their children. “ “Meat is healthy for children.
Meat is not the cause of worm as people alleges. What causes worm is dirty environment and unhygienic food. Egg is good for the child and does not make the child to steal. Infact , egg has been described as a whole meal that provide many nutrient that a child needs. So, children should be constantly fed with these types of food”, he said.
Temiye further noted that iron deficiency can also be prevented during pregnancy by the mother based on the kind of food she consumes. According to him, “ if the mother has enough iron, she should be able to transfer it to the baby and that prevents the baby from iron deficiency.
A child that is iron deficient will easily succumb to infection very early in life and is likely not to do well . Again, the likelihood of losing a mother who has low iron to anaemia is high, so when the mother dies, the child’s life is not safe. So, all these can be prevented through good nutrition.” Earlier in a remark, Managing Director/CEO of Nestle NigeriaPlc, Mr. Dharnesh Gordhon, said iron deficiency is the most common form of micronutrient deficiency in children worldwide and ultimately a significant cause of anemia. “Preschool children are at highest risk and 76.1% of children in Nigeria aged six months to five years are affected”, he added.
To save the lives of children born with iron deficiency, Gordhon stated that more than 90% of iron requirements during the complementary feeding period in a breastfeed infant must be provided by complementary foods. Potential strategies for achieving this according to him include the use of fortified weaning foods, iron fortified formulas, follow-on formulas, food naturally rich in bioavailable iron such as meat or the use of supplements.
The Nestle boss also pointed out that iron is the most important and challenging of the public health micronutrient deficiencies. According to him, iron deficiency has a series of functional consequences such as reduced cognitive development as measured by intelligent quotient and reduced attention span.
Others are poor learning and impaired scholastic performance, decreased exercise stamina, reduced muscular force and strength and impaired body temperature regulation. He however assured that Nestle is commitment to helping in reducing the risk of under-nutrition through micronutrient fortification, stressing that micronutrients such as iron, vitamin A, iodine and zinc are essential for growth and development.