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Preventing Child Malnutrition: A Necessity

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There can be no real growth without healthy populations. No sustainable development without tackling disease and malnutrition. No international security without assisting crisis-ridden countries. And no hope for the spread of freedom, democracy and human dignity unless we treat health as a basic human right.

These were the words of a Norwegian female politician,
Gro Harlem Brundtland, who served three terms as Prime Minister of Norway and as Director-General, World Health Organization (WHO) from 1998 to 2003. Prior to the latter, she was appointed by the United Nations as chairperson of the Brundtland Commission which presented the Brundtland Report on Sustainable Development formally known as the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) in 1983.
Without digressing, malnutrition as a critical disorder occurs when a person’s diet doesn’t contain the right amount of nutrients. It simply means ‘poor nutrition’ and can refer to undernutrition – not getting enough nutrients or overnutrition – getting more nutrients than necessary for normal growth, development and metabolism.
However, there are four sub-forms of undernutrition – wasting (low weight for height), stunting (low height for age), underweight (children with low weight for age), and micronutrient deficiencies.
Instructively, malnutrition results from a poor diet; when the intake of nutrients or energy is too high, too low, or poorly balanced. By implications, malnutrition can occur in poor families as well as rich families that are ignorant of diets. Emaciated or obese, it is still malnutrition.
Arguably, the best way to prevent malnutrition is to eat a healthy, balanced diet. To achieve these, eating a variety of foods from the four main food groups especially sufficient fruits and vegetables is indispensable.
UNICEF in its interventionist nature takes lead in the advocacy particularly through the procurement of Ready-To-Use-Therapeutic Food (RUTF), a special therapy formulated to treat children suffering from severe acute malnutrition.
Lately, two prominent moguls; Bill Gates and Aliko Dangote have joined the crusade against malnutrition. This is commendable as nutrition remains the bedrock of child survival and development.
Nonetheless, the most rewarding, beyond treatment, is to conscientiously activate the popular maxim by a Dutch philosopher, Desiderius Erasmus, which said, “Prevention is better than cure”. Ultimately, taking proper care of health prevents lots of health challenges and also saves money by reducing the number of illnesses and medications.
Hence, parents and custodians should ineludibly be acquainted with knowledge on the best feeding practices, especially for infants and young children. This will ensure that children are properly cared for and fed to prevent malnutrition.
And this is where governments, non-governmental and corporate organizations have crucial roles to play. To articulate policies that support poor families in managing underlying factors affecting child’s nutritional intake is, without doubt, a step forward.
Typically, the human body requires six essential nutrients to function properly, which according to WHO classifications are macronutrients: water, protein, carbohydrates and fats, and micronutrients: vitamins and minerals. Whilst the body requires macronutrients in large amounts, micronutrients are needed in smaller measures.
Beyond nutrients, malnutrition can be caused by infections, psychosocial and environmental factors. Vitally important! Good water supply, sanitation and hygiene are vital for their direct impact on infectious diseases. Incidentally, these demands cannot be met by chance but concerted efforts and self-discipline.
Thus, organizing and supporting community awareness workshops possibly through the local government areas (LGAs) structures to expose women in both rural and urban areas on suitable feeding practices for the family may lend a helping hand.
Likewise, self-care is crucial as it reduces the heavy costs of healthcare associated with diseases. The reason is that many diseases are preventable, and also can be managed much better if identified in time. Self-care treatment of malnutrition may involve dietary changes, such as eating foods high in energy, nutrients and other non-dairy sources of protein.
And the fact remains that well-nourished children are better able to grow resiliently. Undernourished children, on the other hand, have weaker immune systems, thus susceptible to infections and illnesses. Therefore, an investment in nutrition is relatively a premium long-term socioeconomic security.
For emphasis, malnutrition slows economic growth and perpetuates poverty by deterring people from reaching their full potentials. Equally, the mortality and morbidity associated with malnutrition constitute a direct loss in human capital and productivity to any economy, as undernutrition in early childhood makes victims prone to non-communicable diseases, including diabetes and heart disease.
From records, it was estimated that malnutrition could cost a society up to US$3.5 trillion a year, with overweight and obesity alone costing US$500 billion per annum. Likewise, economists maintained that, in total, the cost of malnutrition could range from 2 to 3 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Of course, the education gap and consequent lower outputs of workforce can shake any country affected by malnutrition.
Malnutrition has long-term implications which can ensnare generations of people in a vicious circle of poverty. Preventing malnutrition is, therefore, critical in eradicating poverty and positioning an economy for giant strides.
Umegboro is a public affairs analyst.

 

Carl Umegboro

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Shape Of Things To Come

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In monitoring and surveillance activities, there are two abbreviations that are given priority attention, namely: STC and DEWS, which stand for Shape of Things to Come and Distant Early Warning Signs. From aviation, to health and security industries, shape of things to come and distant early warning system are taken seriously, with appropriate precautionary measures sought and put in place immediately such alert features. Whatever may be the nature of issues concerned, various activities and organisations put precautionary measures in place, and people given some orientation on how to respond to alert.
The Tide, Friday, January 7, 2022, Opinion: Page 9, “That Buhari’s Interview”, by Calista Ezeaku, contained more information than an average reader would grasp. A President’s interview with a television house is obviously not a domestic affair, hence there was a detection and comment about “a close-minded approach to serious national issues”. It was not enough also that someone would say: “From the economy, to insecurity, killings of innocent farmers by terrorists … and other sundry issues, President Buhari honoured his calling as a president who has nothing new to offer”.
It is needful to add that the task of managing affairs that affect millions of people demands that when such a manager has nothing new to offer, what would follow should be an honourable resignation from the task. With regards to the tenure and performance of Buhari, distant early warning signals had long been ignored, denied or distorted, such that one man’s interests can override and become more important than those of millions of people who must bear the brunts of political amnesia.
Management failures do not always arise from wrong decisions and policies, but more often from the intrigues and shenanigans hatched and padded into a management system by a cabal or sapiental authority are not answerable to the masses but always cause great harms for which they are rarely held accountable, nor would the big boss have the courage to dismiss or detach himself from such political parasites. The result of this system of political administration is the installation of weak institutions and structures.
This is why a public analyst would observe and say that “all the abuses of powers by the governors are possible because of the flawed electoral system in the country”. From the refusal to allow for a state police as a complement to the federal police, to the lethargy involved in introducing a fraud-free electoral process, there are parallel forces in government that would not allow leakages and flaws in the system to be closed or checked effectively.
When “administrative banditry” becomes institutionalised, the result would be the situation which we experience currently in Nigeria. Since this anomalous situation had been going on, long enough for more and more Nigerians to know the tricks, it would not be hard to predict the nature of mass reaction to the malpractices. Especially when each federating unit which should be independent and able to have state police and manage indigenous resources cannot be allowed to do so, it is easy to see the shape of things to come in the near future.
For the information of obtuse members of the Nigerian ruling elite and the groups or institutions that shield and protect them in their malpractices, there are glaring signals that the Nigerian masses are wiser now. Even if new tricks are introduced to create a semblance of change from the old system, that would not be enough to avert the shape of things to come. There was a distant early warning signal that the movement of cattle and herders Southwards was a ploy to pursue some hidden agenda.
To quote Mrs Ezeaku again: “It is also worrisome that in this age, the president still believes that establishment of grazing routes would solve the persistent problem of farmers-herders clashes in the country”. Rather than admit that there was a definite hostility against farming communities in Southern parts of Nigeria by herdsmen, President Buhari told American audience that the issue was a cultural one, rather than acts of terrorism. Check all the antics and shenanigans, from Ruga to the guest for allocation of land and huge donations to patrons of cattle business in Nigeria by the federal government, it is easy for anyone to see and read the “handwriting on the wall”.
To have a mindset that all Nigerians can be fooled and bamboozled all the time, would be to cultivate “a close-minded approach to serious national issues. The worsening state of insecurity in Nigeria requires a more broad-minded approach to address the challenge. Not a few Nigerians suspect a possible re-enactment of the Afghan/Taliban experience in Nigeria, whereby a section of our security forces can be described as complicit. General T. Y. Danjuma raised such alarm long ago.
Recently, a Nigerian professor was quoted as picking holes with the observance of New Year on the ground that it is associated with Christian calendar. The idea is that since Islam has a different calendar and new year, the Julian Calendar introduced in 46 B.C. by Julius Caesar, with 365 days in the year, should cease to be. The other alternative would be to recognise and observe the Islamic calendar alongside. Already, there is a similar move to make Friday a work-free day, like Sunday.
There are a few zealots and fanatics carrying these issues too far, to the extent of sponsoring terrorism as an act of proselytism, with recognition and implementation of Sharia law as a mission. This is where the influence of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) needs to be examined, to ensure that democracy and secularism are not placed in jeopardy.
There are glaring pitfalls which Nigeria must strive to avoid, if the nation must survive current challenges. There is a need to re-organise the security and intelligence organs of the nation, revisit the issue of the true federalism and ensure that no ethnic group or power block boasts of being Born to Rule. There is more to the glib talks about corruption than what we put emphases on. To allow current imbalances and inequities to continue would be chaotic!

By: Bright Amirize
Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

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As Marwa Reinvents NDLEA…

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About five weeks after assuming office, precisely on February 23, 2021, the Chairman and Chief Executive of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Brigadier-General Mohammed Buba Marwa (rtd), paid a courtesy visit to the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, at the Government House, Port Harcourt.
During the visit, Governor Wike was reported to have assured Marwa of his government’s readiness to work with the NDLEA to establish a drug rehabilitation centre in the state. According to him, if concerted efforts were made toward achieving a reduction in the level of illicit drug intake in society, there was the possibility that crime rate would reduce.
“It’s most unfortunate that people think that fighting crime is only when you fight bandits and kidnappers. But nobody wants to understand the root cause of most of these crimes,” Wike said.
The governor, while pointing out the need for every responsible government to readily support the agency in its fight against the illicit drugs menace in Nigeria, also thanked the NDLEA boss for making Rivers State his first port of call. And not only did he promise to collaborate on a rehab centre development in the state, it was also reported that Wike ordered an immediate release of three brand new Toyota Hilux vans to the anti-narcotics agency. This, he said, was to enhance the operational capacity of the state command of NDLEA.
Speaking earlier, Marwa was said to have referenced the report of a drug survey by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) which placed Rivers State at 14th position with 15 per cent prevalence rate in the country; whereas Lagos had 33 per cent.
After serving as military governor of Lagos State during the regime of late General Sani Abacha, Marwa had remained largely off the radar with regard to social and political events in the country. But what Nigerians are most likely to credit him with is that he governed Lagos with a human face, especially during those turbulent years of Abacha versus the radical pro-democracy group, NADECO; following the incarceration of Chief MKO Abiola, presumed winner of the annulled1993 presidential election.
Who will hurriedly forget those years when the then US Ambassador to Nigeria, Walter Carrington, registered a regular presence at NADECO’s rallies even if to serve as a mobile embassy for the group’s chieftains who always ran to draw from his diplomatic immunity when hounded by Abacha’s secret police. Rumours had it back then that Marwa often intervened to release those eventually whisked away by the police.
Recall that Marwa had, in a 1998 radio and television broadcast, announced that some unknown persons had been trying to assassinate him. He particularly mentioned how his convoy had been the target of many bomb attacks since 1996.
It was also during Marwa’s administration that the now popular commercial tricycle made its debut in Nigeria and was referred to as ‘Keke Marwa’. It is still so called in Lagos, notwithstanding the subsequent mass importation and distribution of the dinky vehicle by the defunct National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP) from which it derived the name ‘Keke NAPEP’ elsewhere in the country.
With all due respect to its past chief executives, NDLEA had appeared to lose its initial vibrancy after the tenure of its first chairman, Mr Fulani Kwajafa. For decades, its narcotics seizures had hardly been of any significant sizes and street values. And this was even as peddlers and consumers of such drugs roamed our city streets undetected.
Under Marwa, the NDLEA’s almost daily exploits now form part of the major headlines on the nation’s news media. In fact, reports once had it that, less than two months after his arrival, officers and men of the agency confiscated over N60 billion worth of illicit drugs. These substances comprised mainly Cannabis sativa, methamphetamine, cocaine, tramadol and heroin. But how has the retired army general been able to turn things round for the nation’s obviously dispirited drug law enforcers?
A recent statement signed by the Agency’s Director of Media and Advocacy, Femi Babafemi, said that Marwa had always received constant support and encouragement from President Muhammadu Buhari. According to him, “the figures of our drug supply reduction activities have skyrocketed: 11,340 arrests and 1,111 convictions in 11 months. These figures are balanced by equally impressive drug demand reduction stats: 7,066 counselled and rehabilitated, all in our facilities. During the 11 months, we have successfully mopped up over 3.3 million kilogrammes of assorted drugs; away from the streets of Nigeria; away from criminals, terrorists and bandits; away from our youths…”
Another strategy being employed by the NDLEA boss is staff motivation. Earlier reports had said that a few days after he assumed duty, Marwa had promised to constitute a committee to look into cases of ranks stagnation, non-promotion and other demoralising issues bedeviling the Agency. Today, according to Babafemi’s release, ranks have been harmonised with the promotion of 3,506 officers and men, while a case is being advanced for a new salary structure to equate with similar agencies. The staff welfare scheme has been expanded to include functional insurance policy and burial entitlements to families of officers lost in the line of duty.
Also, the organisation has doubled its workforce under the present chief executive; including the institution of bimonthly performance awards. And this is in addition to a promise of building barracks for staff in the new year.
In furtherance of the Operation Offensive Action which he initiated on arrival, Marwa was recently reported to have led a team of his senior officers on an advocacy visit to the Chief of Defence Staff, Lt. General Lucky Irabor, and the other service chiefs at the Defence Headquarters, during which he solicited the military’s support.
“There is no doubt that illicit drugs fuel and enhance criminalities, hence the need for more collaboration; a partnership that is mutually beneficial because when the problem of drugs is taken out of the security challenge equation, the military will have less to do in tackling terrorism, banditry and kidnapping,” Marwa said.

By: Ibelema Jumbo

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Opinion

Resolutions: Figments Of Emotions

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No doubt, New Year resolution has been a regular phenomenon and an integral aspect of activities to herald the dawn of a new year. It has become a norm for people to see the eve of a new year as a veritable platform to take a retrospect of their socio-economic, political, spiritual, academic and inter-personal activities of the preceding year, introspect into how to live and what to achieve in the future.
The beginning of every year is time to also make new promise(s), and dream new dream of life. It is a time to mend broken relationship, soothe frayed nerves and also chart a progressive course of action.
For many, the resolution provides a premise for a new beginning, a paradigm shift from the old unfavourable order and a marked departure from the ugly incidences that characterised the preceding year.
To others, it is a period of stock taking, sober reflection and articulating plans for the year.
However, while both schools of thought have valid reasons towards their perspective on resolution, New Year resolutions are far beyond mere wishes which anybody has the liberty to make even unguidedly. Resolutions will translate to exercise in futility if reasonable commitment is not made to convert such verbal expressions into a concrete reality. There is need for those who make resolutions to also muster the commensurate will to walk the talk. The apparent lack of will-power explains why some people are caught in the web of the litany of repetition. Such people say the same thing every year because previous goal was not met.
It is pertinent to state that according to Isaac Newton’s Law of Motion, everything is at a state of rest until something makes it to move.
Therefore, motion is the response of matter to force. Consequently, even resolution which may be described as a mental picture is at a state of ‘rest’. Resolution must be made to ‘move’. The person that made the resolution has the capacity to make it move or work. The reason is not far-fetched. Resolution is a function of thought. And, according to Emerson, thought is the ancestor and seat of action. It is the soul of the act.
This simply implies that every thought or idea whether positive or negative, has a possibility of being fulfilled.
I agree, therefore with Napoleon Hill, in one of his bestselling books, Think And Grow Rich, that whatever the human mind conceives, it can achieve. In my considered view the human mind is the most critical asset for human development. Little wonder, the Book of Books – the Bible – says “As a man thinks in his heart so he is”. Nobody grows above the dictate of his or her mindset. Every Creation of man is a function of an effective and progressive mindset.
Conversely, resolutions are like dreams, phantoms and attempts to build castles in the air, if goals are not set, to drive such resolution. Goal setting and resolution making must be an inseparable pair, going hand-in-glove and pari passu.
Hellen Keller, a woman who became blind few months after her birth as a result of wrong eye medication, understood that success in life is essentially a function of goal setting and vision. When Keller was asked what would be the worst thing that would happen to a person, she did not mince words nor give a deep thought to volunteer an answer. Her response identifies the bane of failure of many dreams, resolutions and aspirations.
What was the answer? To have ‘sight without vision’, Keller said is the worst thing that would happen to a person.
Lack of vision’ to drive resolution, to my dispassionate mind, is a cause of dashed hopes and failed plans.
Without saying a new thing, vision is a mental picture of a preferred destination birthed by passion. But vision cannot stand alone. It needs passion also to work effectively. Vision and passion, like goal setting and resolution, are also an inseparable pair, like the snail and its shell. Separate them, each will languish for want of the other.
Vision without passion is a truncated journey of life. Passion drives vision and goal setting. Where there is a vision and well-articulated goal setting without a commensurate passion, such goal or resolution cannot work.
It is not gainsaying the fact that resolutions are functions of decision; however, the effectiveness of decision is measured by its implementation. So many decisions made at the verge of a new year were not enforced or carried out.
Then of what use are resolutions if they are not implemented. Resolutions are litmus test of integrity. A person who says what he cannot keep or said what he never meant has a dent on credibility.
Without losing sight of the fact that there are circumstances beyond human control so much so that if and when a promise or decision is made concerning a matter, it is outside the power of a man to achieve such plan, resolutions are not pies that are meant to be broken contrary to what argument lesser minds advance to justify their inability to achieve target and fulfill promise.
Consequently, to achieve resolution, plan or goal for the year, the God factor comes to play in this area, knowing that humans are limited in capacity to actualise their goals without God. Jesus rightly said “Without me you can do nothing” (John 15). Correspondingly, Paul writing to the Phillipians’ Church said: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
The summary of it is that while Resolutions, Vision, Goal setting are germane and essential ingredients for success, making reasonable commitments to make them happen through faith in Jesus and due diligence are absolutely necessary tools to drive a fulfilled resolution.
Nothing happens unless you or a superior being make it to happen. Life has never been fair to anybody, people get out of life what they want to get.
The year 2022 has just begun, it is still fresh and promising but only those who know what they want to achieve and pursue it, the odds notwithstanding, will count their blessing at the end.
Methinks that everyone that has made a resolution is an enlightened mind who knows what the implications are; in relation to social responsibility, individual development and God, let those, therefore, make efforts to achieve them.
Eleven months from now, every one that has made a resolution will stand in the court of conscience to answer for themselves, if they actually achieved their goal. “How time flies”, they say. Therefore, the time to act is now. There is no tomorrow but today. Today well lived, makes a better tomorrow; a tomorrow to be reckoned with.

By: Igbiki Benibo

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