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Socio-Cultural Factors Influencing Child Nutrition in Nigeria– A Case of Onicha L.G.A, Ebonyi State


Young children are the- most nutritionally vulnerable groups especially in the developing countries of the world yet, relatively little is done to achieve, their special nutritional needs. This study was done to determine the socio-cultural actors influencing child nutrition among young children (0-5 years) in Onicha Local Government Area in Ebonyi State. It aimed at enlightening parents on the importance of adequate nutrition in childhood, for healthy growth of children. The researcher adopted a survey type of research design and. focused on women of child — hearing age (15-40 years) who are currently rearing a child / children within the specified age bracket (0-5 years) in the; three general hospitals in Onicha Local Government Area. A total of 1 75 structured, questionnaire were distributed, to the subjects systematically selected, and. all Lucre completed and. returned.. The questionnaire showed that socio-economic status of the family significantly influences child nutrition among these young children (0-5 years). There was also a significant relationship between-, cultural practices on breastfeeding and -.child weaning and. child nutrition among young children. (0 — 5 years) in Onicha Local Government Area, in Ebony i State. Based, on these findings, the researcher concluded that; socio-economic stains of the family and. cultural practices and beliefs on breastfeeding significantly, influenced child nutrition among children (0-5 years) in Onicha Local Government Area.; and there is a significant relationship between cultural child, weaning practices and child nutrition among cliild.ren (0-5 years) in Onicha, L.G.A. In view of the findings, the research, made the following recommendations that .government should improve the standard, of living of the rural •dwellers to eradicate poverty. Formal education should be ma.de free and. compulsory for girls up to secondary school level. Nurses should educate mothers on how to make use of locally available food sources as leaning diets and supplements for breastfeeding. Nurses should intensity efforts in educating mother and. expectant mothers on exclusive breast feeding, weaning foods and. methods during antenatal, postnatal and out-reach visits. And finally that, policy makers should make policies and. programs on infant and. young child feeding to guarantee adequate nutrition for infants and children.



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 clone to achieve their special nutritional needs (Oyira, et al 2010).

The importance of nutrition in childhood for both immediate health and health in later life is a topic that has aroused considerable interest and argument over the past 15-20 years. The dept 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 is not new. In Europe and North America in the past, (and in many traditional societies today), early feeding has been considered a determinant of later character as much as later growth and health. Such considerations were not always well substantiated although widely accepted. Thus, feeding on eggs made children thieves and wet nurses (mothers) transmitted their personalities to the children (hey suckled through their milk (Fildes, 2006). Current beliefs on the relation of childhood diet to later health and development may seem more scientific but are at present equally unsubstantiated by hard clinical evidence.

Some long-term complications of childhood nutrition that   can   be   substantiated   are   well   understood.   For example, Rickets may be responsible for long term bony, particularly pelvic deformity. Energy deficiency may lead to small size and poor physical abilities in adult life. One dietary question   that is   of most concern   to   both   the epidemiologists,   nutritionists   and   primary   health   care Specialists today is whether diet s of nutritional adequacy contain some long-term risks?

Virtually all that we know about dietary excess in childhood leading to health problems in adult life is circumstantial evidence derived from population studies and unsubstantiated by individual correlations. Parameters of nutrition in adult life can be correlated with risks for mobility and mortality. Childhood is implicated by association. Thus, populations adopting Western high-fat, refined carbohydrate, low fibre diets show increased prevalence of obesity, hypertension, coronary heart disease, diabetes mellitus, large bowel/cancer and several other problems (Poskitt, 2008).

Controversy continues to rage   over   the   risks   a particular dietary habit may present even in adult life. Correlations   between certain nutrients intakes and particular disease are possible when comparing Emulations, but calculation of the risks for individuals probably will never be possible. Genetics   and non-nutritional environmental factors affecting individuals are risk factors as well (Poskitt, 2008).

The process of physiological growth in children involves the complex interaction of nutritional, genetic and environmental factors. Nutritional requirements obviously vary with age and diet must therefore be adjusted accordingly to achieve optimal health and growth.

In the conclusion of a study conducted by Sims, Paolucci, and Morns (2002), they emphasized the importance of behavioural factors for adequate child growth in conditions of poverty and food constraints; and identified the linkages   between food availability, care giving behaviours, and child nutrition.

Finally, relatively little has been written 011 factors influencing child nutrition. Hence, the researcher hopes that this study will stimulate other scholars, higher and lower than him, to conduct more in-depth studies on this topic.

1.2   Statement of the Problem

In the five communities that make up Onicha

Local   Government   Area,   namely:   Isu,   Onicha, Osheri, Ukawu and Abaomega. it is very common to see children below the age of five (5) years appearing either stunted, wasted or Under weight. Moreover, in   addition to poor socio economic status of most   families, a large number of women of children bearing age are literates who still hold and value with utmost esteem, their socio-cultural practices such as; Local weaning methods practices, naming rituals/rites (Igu   Ogbo)   etc.   These practices encourage the separation of children from their parents, which predispose such children to poor, unhygienic diets, loss of appetite and nutritional stress.

This observation prompted the researcher to study the socio-cultural factors influencing child nutrition in the area.

1.3   Objectives of the study

  1. To ascertain the influence of socio-economic status of the family on child nutrition.
  2. To find out the influence of cultural practices on the nutritional pattern and status of a child.
  3. To determine the influence of breastfeed   practices on child nutrition.
  4. To determine the child wearing practices in Onicha.

 1.4   Significance of the study

This study is aimed at enlightening parents on the importance of adequate nutrition especially during childhood, which promotes healthy growth of children; and thus a healthy nation. The study will promote the use of locally available food resources to prevent inadequate nutrition in children, occurring as a result of the superstitions and cultural practices held about nutrition with regards to children.

The   result   of  this   research   will assist   health workers to find out areas of focus and emphasis when giving health talks to pregnant   women and nursing ‘mothers during antenatal and postnatal clinics respectively.

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