A mother is the principal provider of the primary care that her child needs during the first six years of its life. The type of care she provides depends to a large extent on her knowledge and understanding of some aspects of basic nutrition and health care. Their nutritional knowledge plays an important role on the children health issue. Undernutrition is the burning problem among the infants and young children. Infants in their early life are completely dependent for their nutritional requirements on their parents both in terms of quality and quantity (Masud, 2015).
Worldwide, mothers are charged with the task of feeding and providing care for their children, regardless of the environment or resources available to them. Maternal knowledge of common infection and how they care for their sick child will all contribute to their children overall health and wellbeing (Muller &Krawinkel, 2011).
According to Myers (1992) quoted by Ngwu (2015), personal experience creates believers in the value of early childhood care and development. Parents, professionals and others, who are simply close observers of how the neighbor’s children grow, recognize the healthy effect of good care and attention to infants and young children. They do not need an elaborate rationale to justify their personal feeling that rudimentary health precautions and a good diet, combined with smiles, cuddling, talk and play, will enhance a child’s development. Such actions are seen as a good investment of time and money.Nutritional status of children today reflects a healthy and productive generation in future. Especially for under five children, nutritional condition is a critical factor for optimum growth and it should neither be inadequate nor excessive. Improved nutrition and health enhance the learning ability of children. In the long-run it leads to an increase in the strength of the labor force and thereby it contributes positively for the economic growth. Thus, good nutrition is essential for healthy, thriving individuals, families and a nation (European Academic Research 2015).
For many people, the obligation to protect a child’s human rights is the most fundamental and convincing reason to invest in programme that enhance early childhood development. The Declaration of the Rights of the Child, adopted unanimously in 1959 by the United Nations General Assembly recognized among its ten principles that, children of working parents have the right to benefit from child care services and facilities for which they are eligible. The Declaration of Children’s Rights and the Convention suggest that the right for children to develop to their full potential is widely accepted internationally, providing the rational for child health program (Ngwu, 2015).
Public health attempts to identify problem affecting children’s health and tries to solve them; there are shining examples of public health intervention leading to improved public health. it ranges from small pox eradication, poliomyelitis eradication, expanded program on immunization (EPI) etc. However, undernutrition among children remains a challenge till date despite identification of the problem for more than a century.
Proper nutrition is essential for physical and mental growth of the child. Healthy children of today will become healthy citizens of tomorrow. Child growth is therefore, internationally recognized as an important public health indicator. Undernutrition persists as a major threat to both physical development and health of millions of children below five years of age in the developing countries. It is a critical problem that contributes nearly one third of total deaths among under-five children in the world. Prevalence of undernutrition is high in most African countries (United Nation International Children’s Fund (UNICEF) (2012).
Efforts to prevent or control undernutrition have not been successful, not much technical expertise is required to prevent most of the cases of undernutrition as they are due to lack of sufficient and appropriate food. Undernutrition among children is an outcome of many interrelated factors including environmental, socioeconomic status and education of mothers. Among these, the ones that have immediate and direct effects on undernutrition are feeding practices by mothers and infection (Dr. Apurvadan, 2012).
Children less than five years worldwide are known to be vulnerable and susceptible in many aspects, especially on matters on health. Nutritional deficiencies and malnutrition generally affect children more than any other group. Poor nutrition occurs in developing countries, as well as in more prosperous areas of the world. WHO Progress Report (2015) indicates that hunger and malnutrition remain the most devastating problems to the world’s poor and needy.
According to Okolie (2012), most children in Nigeria fall sick as a result of eating inappropriate food for a long period of time. This situation most often leads to prolonged undernutrition which could cause some serious health problems. Undernourished children have lowered resistance to infection; they are more likely to suffer from common childhood ailments like diarrhea disease and respiratory infections and for those who survive, frequent illness saps their nutritional status and faltering growth (UNICEF, 2012).
In order to make a sustainable impact, interventions need to address direct causes and also the context of undernutrition. Although a serious contextual factor like poverty has been identified as the strongest determinant factor for the occurrence of undernutrition, improved economic performance has not automatically led to improved nutritional status of affected children. It should be noted that poverty increases susceptibility to poor nutritional outcomes and significant number of children brought up in poverty end up with undernutrition (Abubakar, Holding, Mwangome&Maitlank, 2011).
In this study therefore, the overriding interest of the researcher was to find out the knowledge of mothers about factors contributing to undernutrition among 0-5 years children in their community.
Effective nutrition is one of the most important health determinant among citizens of any country including Nigeria. However, undernutrition remains a big threat to almost all regions in Nigeria. The world health organization (WHO), (2013), established that there are 178 million children that are undernourished across the globe and at any given moment, 20 million are suffering from severe form of undernutrition. Undernutrition contributes to between 3.5 million and 5 million annual deaths among under five children. Given the fact that a lot of studies on the determinants of undernutrition among under five children have been conducted in Nigeria and despite all government effort in preventing it among children, a lot of children are still suffering from Undernutrition.
Knowledge of mothers has an important role in the maintenance of nutritional status of the children.Adequate knowledge regarding various aspects offeeding practices during pregnancy and during infancy is very essential especially among females as they are going to influence the feeding practices of this vulnerable group. The knowledge of child nutrition and caring practices can be expected to have significant bearing on their children nutritional status. Therefore, there is need to examine the knowledge of mothers about factors contributing to undernutrition among 0-5 years children.