Follow us:

Curb Challenges to Nigerian Children’s Growth, Don Urges Govt.

A Professor of Paediatrics at Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU) Ago-Iwoye, Prof. Musili Bolanle Fetuga, has advocated financial empowerment of families towards tackling the enormous challenges facing the growth potentials of Nigerian children. She said efforts must be made by the government at the state and national levels to address the various socio-economic challenges confronting families through the creation of an enabling environment for financial empowerment of families, adding that this will enhance children’s growth by improving nutrition, preventing infections and improving access to quality health care for children.

Fetuga, who is the Dean, Faculty of Clinical Sciences, Obafemi Awolowo College of Health Sciences in the Sagamu Campus of the University, also recommended nutritional intervention programmes like food supplementation and compulsory free mid-day school meals as a fiscal policy of the government to improve disease outcomes and the growth of children in the nation’s population.

Some guests at the 102nd Inaugural Lecture of OOU

She gave the recommendations, among others, while delivering the 102nd Inaugural Lecture of OOU on Tuesday, 8th February 2022 at the Otunba Gbenga Daniel Lecture Theatre, Main Campus, Ago-Iwoye.
The Inaugural Lecture entitled, ”That our  Children may Grow: The Potentials, Challenges and Privileges,” was presided over by the Vice-Chancellor of the University, Professor Ganiyu Olatunji Olatunde.
The Inaugural Lecturer posited that the growth potentials of Nigerian children are faced with enormous challenges in terms of unfavourable social factors, infections and endocrine disorders, adding that these challenges are  made worse by the low socio-economic status of their families.

She said, ”Parents desire that their children should grow just as every nation wants the same, as growtth is a marker of strength. Growth is quantitative and includes dimensions in weight, length or height, among other parameters of assessment. In human beings, growth follows a definite pattern from birth through to adulthood.’’

‘’In an ideal world, all children should have the opportunity to grow to their full genetic potential. However, the childhood growth phase is influenced not only by genes and hormones but also by nutrition, diseases, social, cultural and economic factors. These may constitute challenges to a child’s growth potentials.’’

Prof. Fetuga, who explained that her research had shown the impact of low socio-economic status on children’s growth and health, disclosed that malnutrition contributes to 45% of all child deaths under age five in developing countries. She, however, argued that with the childhood survival strategies, there has been an improvement in childhood morbidity and mortality statistics.

She added, ”Beyond survival into the school-age, many children from low-income backgrounds, especially in public schools, do not eat enough food outside of school to support their growing bodies and minds.
‘’Bill and Melinda Gates have noted that being born American to wealthy parents are some of the factors that were responsible for their ultimate success. The implication is that many children from our environment are already born disadvantaged and with challenges regardless of their innate and genetic potentials for growth. Their counterparts in developed countries are, no doubt, privileged.’’

 Prof. Fetuga submitted that in order to adequately nurture the growth potentials of children, the society must accept that although children are minors and cannot make decisions for themselves, their interest must still be paramount and overriding when adults make decisions on their behalf. She also advised that issues of guardianship and legal responsibility should be considered in every pediatric care to avoid discharge against medical advice, adding that hospitals should have avenues of defending the rights of children to life and death.
Periodic growth monitoring of all school children for early recognition and appropriate intervention are vital, she further suggested, stressing that the school health service programme should be strengthened in both private and public schools for this purpose.

”There is a need to develop a national growth chart for Nigerian children for clinical practice and research. This will require a collaborative effort among paediatric endocrinologists across the six geopolitical zones in the country,” the erudite scholar stated.
The don, who thrilled her audience with her journey into the field of paediatrics as well as  paediatric endocrinology sub-speciality, stated that the goal of paediatric care is to maximise each child’s potentials.

She said, ”Paediatrics is the branch of medicine that deals with children’s physical, mental, social health and their diseases. It involves the medical care of newborns, infants, children and adolescents from birth to 18 years of age. This age limit may vary for cultural or geographic reasons. A medical doctor who specialises in this area is known as Paediatrician.

Prof. Fetuga presenting a copy of her Inaugural Lecture to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Academic, Prof. Deji Agboola

The Paediatrician is interested in child nutrition, vaccinations and ensures a child meets the milestones in growth and development. In addition to treating common illnesses, Paediatricians have to keep abreast of emerging diseases and health risks for children, of which the global COVID-19 pandemic is a vivid example.’’
‘’Paediatrics comprises several sub-specialities, namely neonatology, cardiology, endocrinology, infectious diseases, gastroenterology, nephrology, neurology, respiratory, haematology, oncology, social, adolescence and emergency care. Indeed, the field of Paediatrics is about the entire body of a child, unlike some other sub-specialities, which are limited to specific parts of functions of the body.’’

Prof. Fetuga, who identified growth monitoring as an essential component of child survival strategies, emphasised that in keeping with the poverty reduction target of the Sustainable Development Goals, families should be empowered economically for improved growth of children and the government should provide free nourishing mid-day meals for primary school children.

”The relationship between nutrition and growth is interwoven. Growth is an index of the quality of food, feeding and general well-being. Therefore, often when the growth of a child is assessed, it is closely related to the nutritional status of the child  using parameters such as Weight-for-Age, Height-for-Age, Weight-for-Height and Body  Mass Index (BMI)-for-Age,” she said.

On child labour, which formed part of her research activities, the distinguished don concluded that family economic enhancement, high parental education and smaller family size would reduce the pressure on parents to engage their children in labour activities.
”Children, especially the girl child, should be protected from child labour related hazards and only carefully defined home chores of non-economic nature should be allowed,” Prof. Fetuga added.

The Inaugural Lecture had in attendance members of the University Management, distinguished scholars, traditional rulers, eminent personalities, staff and students.

Scroll to Top