According to the World Health Organization (WHO), malnutrition is estimated to contribute to more than one third of all child deaths, although it is rarely listed as the direct cause. Lack of access to highly nutritious foods, especially in the present context of rising food prices, is a common cause of malnutrition.
Poor feeding practices, such as inadequate breastfeeding, offering the wrong foods, and not ensuring that the child gets enough nutritious food, contributes to malnutrition. Infection particularly frequent or persistent diarrhoea, pneumonia, measles and malaria also undermines a child's nutritional status. Malnutrition is the insufficient, excessive or imbalanced consumption of nutrients.
Currently malnutrition is a serious issue in the three regions of the north namely, Upper West, Upper East and northern regions though there are isolated cases in the southern part of the country. Records at the Tamale Teaching Hospital (TTH) in the year 2014 showed that about 164 cases were recorded, 212 were reported in 2015 and from January to June 2016 the hospital further recorded 85 malnutrition cases.
Most of these cases happen in districts and villages where they would not report to any health facility but rather manage them until the children die or it turn into chronic conditions for the children.
Zaa News spoke to a dietician, Mr.Divine Eli-Cophie who is also a nutrition consultant at the Right to Know Consultancy in the Tamale metropolis. He noted that children who are severely malnourished typically experience slow behavioral and intellectual development, which may lead to intellectual disabilities.
Mr Divine, who is also a biochemist, further stated that even when treated, under-nutrition may have long-term effects in children, with impairments in mental function and digestive problems persisting in some cases for the rest of their lives.
Adults, whose severe under-nourishment started during adulthood, usually make a full recovery when treated. He has therefore encouraged parents, especially mothers, to make the feeding of their children a top most priority by feeding them with the right amounts of nutrients that they need. Mr Divine also tasked government to put in place systems to reduce poverty which is a major cause of malnutrition in the country.
He mentioned some of the causes of malnutrition as poverty, disease, psychological conditions as well as traditional beliefs which he said must be given the needed attention. He further called for community sensitization as well as women empowerment. According to him, women play a critical role in the development and growth of a child hence the need for them to be well-empowered.
By: Lilian D. Walter