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PERCEIVED SOCIO-CULTURAL FACTORS INFLUENCING NUTRITIONAL STATUS OF CHILDREN BELOW 5 YEARS IN SELECTED RURAL COMMUNITIES

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PERCEIVED SOCIO-CULTURAL FACTORS INFLUENCING NUTRITIONAL STATUS OF CHILDREN BELOW 5 YEARS IN SELECTED RURAL COMMUNITIES

 

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1       Background of the Study

Child nutrition plays a key role in infant and child health or death. Young children, pregnant women and lactating mothers are nutritionally the most vulnerable group, especially in the developing countries of the world, and yet relatively little is done to achieve their special nutritional needs. (Oyira, Abua, Mgbekem&Okon, 2010). The importance of nutrition in childhood for both immediate health and health in later life is a topic that has aroused a considerable interest and argument over the past 15 – 20 years. The depth of interest and the data that arouse the interest are new but the concept that the way a child is fed has a long-term effect or consequences are not new. In developed countries and many traditional societies today, early feeding has been considered a determinant of later character as much as later growth and health. Correct nutrition ensures healthier children, who grow into more productive adults while Poor nutrition on the other hand leads to malnutrition. Malnutrition continues to be a significant public health and development concern around the world with about one-third of the world’s children malnourished and an estimated 150 to 200 million pre-school children (< 5-years) in developing countries being underweight and stunted, respectively (WHO, 2006). Malnutrition is the condition that results from taking inadequate diet in which certain nutrients are lacking, in excess, or in the wrong proportions (Sullivan & Sheffrin, 2010). Factors that influence the nutritional status of children are many and varied. These factors include inadequate dietary intake, poor household, food security, diseases like diarrhea, infections e.t.c., inadequate maternal and child care, unhealthy environment, lack of education and nutritional information to mention but a few (Sullivan & Sheffrin, 2010). All these in turn lead to malnutrition. There is a relationship between socio-cultural factors, health and nutrition (Noughani, Bagheri & Ramim, 2014). Socio-economic and socio-cultural factors simultaneously influence both the children’s nutritional status and their nutrition related roles. The effects of malnutrition on human performance, health and survival have been the subject of extensive research for several decades and studies show that malnutrition affects physical growth, morbidity, mortality, cognitive development, reproduction, and physical work capacity (Pettetier & Frangillo, 2008). Malnutrition is particularly prevalent in developing countries, where it affects one out of every three preschoolage children (United Nations Sub-Committee on Nutrition, 2012).  Nigeria contributes 5.7% of hunger problems in the world and 40% of Nigerian children under five are stunted, 9% are wasted while 25% are underweight. Micronutrient deficiencies in vitamin A, iron and iodine are widespread, while 2 out of 5 children in Nigeria are chronically undernourished (Global Hunger Index Report, 2011). Factors that influence the nutritional status of children are many and varied. These factors include inadequate dietary intake, poor household food security, diseases like diarrhea, infections e.t.c., inadequate maternal and child care, unhealthy environment, lack of education and nutritional information to mention but a few (Sullivan & Sheffrin, 2010).  All these in turn lead to malnutrition. There is a relationship between socio-cultural factors, health and nutrition (Noughani, 2010). Socio-economic and socio-cultural factors simultaneously influence both the children’s nutritional status and their nutrition related roles. Cultural practices like breastfeeding, food taboos and feeding patterns can affect a child’s welfare and nutrition (Noughani, 2010). Therefore, social and cultural factors related to health and nutrition assist in answering some of the practical problems involved in implementing health programs. The socio-cultural perspective enables us to understand the existing habits of the people, and the linkages between these habits, thus identifying major barriers in the implementation of health programs. Socio-cultural factors influence individuals directly and very likely change the course of conduct that an individual may be compelled to take (Noughani, 2010).  A society’s customs and ideas have a great impact on the nutritional status of its indigenes.  These factors in combination with other factors such as family structure, ignorance, illiteracy and poverty can lead to severe malnutrition in children.  It is therefore important to identify and understand factors that put children from rural or farming communities at a greater risk of malnutrition in early childhood compared to their urban counterparts.  The present study thus aims to examine the perceived socio-cultural factors influencing nutritional status of children under age 5 in rural communities in Owerri North.

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