Sunday, 5 June 2011

MALNUTRITION: Africa: early introduction of complementary feeding


Child malnutrition due to early introduction of complementary feeding to infants less than six months remains a major health problem in poor areas of Africa.

According to a study by the Kenya Agriculture Research Institution (Kari), breastfeeding mothers introduce complementary feeding to infants before the elapse of the “critical window” period — considered important for the optimal growth, health, and development of an infant.
“This predisposes children to frequent illness hence malnutrition,” a food nutritionist at Kari Buke G. Bulle said
The study on complementary feeding practices of children less than 36 months — carried out in Kiambiu, a low income area of Nairobi, — indicated that lack of information on exclusive breast feeding and low level of education for the mothers is the main cause of the frequent illness and malnutrition among infants.
About 135 mothers were interviewed. Fifty-three per cent of the mothers were aged 18-24; 73 per cent were primary school leavers while 78 per cent were housewives.
From the study, 33 per cent of the children were underweight while 58 per cen were stunted. Fifty-nine per cent of mothers introduce complementary foods before six months
“Even with optimum breastfeeding children will become stunted if they do not receive sufficient quantities of quality complementary foods after six months of age,” Mrs Buke said.
From the study, she said, drastic and early introduction to complementary feeding is not appropriate infant feeding practice. Also sudden withdrawal of breastfeeding is also not encouraged for proper growth of the infant.
“The early introduction may contain components that can cause allergy,” she said.
According to the framework on the causes of malnutrition by Unicef, nutrient intake and the presence or absence of diseases are the direct determinants of child survival, growth and development.
A recent report by Unicef indicates that an estimated six per cent or 600,000 under-five deaths occur yearly due to malnutrition.
The report says that over half of 6-9 month olds are breastfed and given complementary foods and only 39 per cent of 20-23 month olds are provided with continued breastfeeding.

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