Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Poor Nutrition Halts Growth in Niger

(Source Article: Niger Malnutrition - Reuters)

UNICEF, the U.N Children’s fund, reports that half of Niger’s children suffer from growth retardation resulting from food shortages and the world’s lowest rate of baby breastfeeding; a UNICEF representative says that 50% of children under 5 years suffer growth retardation, and only 1.2% receive exclusive breastfeeding. UNICEF data suggests that breastfeeding, considered the most nutritious source of food for growing babies, could save millions of lives if it served as the exclusive source of nutrition for babies until around 6 months of age.

Niger is a region in Africa accustomed to food shortages: last year a plague of locusts and poor harvests left some 3.6 million people largely without food.

Social and cultural attitudes in Niger, including the belief that the first born child shouldn’t be breastfed, result in Nigerian babies receiving a mixture of water and other liquids—leading to chronic infections because of unsanitary water in many areas. This lack of breastfeeding, plus other food shortages, combine to create high child mortality rates.

A recent study shows that 15.3% of all Nigerian children suffer from malnutrition. The Nigerian government, in response, has drawn up a 10-year plan intending to improve healthcare and child nutrition.

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