Do you remember when your mom told you to eat your vegetables so you can grow big and strong? Well, she wasn’t just saying it to annoy you. Adequate nutrition is crucial for growth and development, especially for children. And in Africa, where malnutrition is still a major problem, it’s important to understand why every child needs proper nutrition.
The dilemma of nutrition in Africa
On the continent, malnutrition is still a major problem, particularly in children under the age of five. In Nigeria for instance, a 2020 report by UNICEF, stated that one in three Nigerian children under five years old is chronically malnourished. This means they’re not getting the right nutrients they need to grow and develop, and it can have long-lasting effects on their health.
Now, why is nutrition so important, especially for children?
1: Nutrition supports physical growth and strength.
Children need a balanced and diverse diet that provides them with enough energy, protein, vitamins, and minerals to grow tall, strong, and resilient. Without enough nutrients, children may face stunted growth, weak bones, and fragile immunity. In fact, malnutrition is the underlying cause of almost half of the child deaths in Africa. By giving your child enough food and variety, you help them build a healthy body that can withstand diseases and challenges.
2: Nutrition enhances cognitive function and learning.
Children’s brains are also growing and developing rapidly, especially during the first 1000 days of life. Therefore, it is crucial to give them enough nutrients that can support their cognitive function, memory, attention, and creativity. Studies have shown that malnourished children have lower academic performance and social skills, and are more prone to behavioural problems and depression. By providing your child with a nutritious diet, you help them not only survive but thrive.
3: Nutrition prevents and treats diseases and infections.
Good nutrition is not only a shield against diseases but also a remedy for them. Children who are well-nourished have a stronger immune system that can fight off infections and recover faster from illnesses. They are also less likely to develop chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and obesity later in life. On the other hand, children who are poorly nourished are more vulnerable to infections, anaemia, diarrhoea, and other health problems that can impair their growth and development.
4: Nutrition promotes social and cultural values.
Food is not only a biological necessity but also a social and cultural practice. By sharing meals with your child, you can teach them important values such as respect, gratitude, generosity, and diversity. You can also introduce them to different tastes, textures, and traditions that can broaden their horizons and enrich their appreciation of their own and other cultures. By valuing nutrition as a holistic and integrated part of life, you help your child become a more informed, empathetic, and open-minded person.
5: Nutrition empowers families and communities.
Finally, by investing in nutrition, you not only support your child but also your family and your community. Good nutrition is often linked to gender equality, maternal health, and sustainable agriculture, as well as economic growth and political stability. By promoting nutritious food, safe water, and hygiene practices, you contribute to the well-being of everyone around you. You also demand accountability from governments and institutions to invest more in nutrition programs and policies that can benefit millions of children in Africa and beyond.
In conclusion, providing proper nutrition is essential for the growth and development of every child. In doing so, we can give every child in Africa a chance to grow up healthy and strong. Remember, every meal you provide your child is an investment in their future. Every food choice you make is an act of love and responsibility. So, do it!