1.1 Background information
Inadequate food and nutrient intake, improper feeding practices, poor nutrition education, insufficient food availability at household level, domestic processing techniques and food preparation methods are among the major causes of malnutrition (NDHS, 1990). Nutrition and nutrition-related diseases continue to be a problem of public health significance in Nigeria.
Several efforts are in place to reduce malnutrition. These efforts amongst others are studies undertaken in Nigeria to assess the prevalence of malnutrition in the target population.
Some of these studies were the Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS, 1990), the Participatory Information Collection study (PIC, 1993), the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS, 1995), the Benchmark Survey (1996) and the most recent, National Food Consumption and Nutrition Survey (NFCNS) (IITA, 2004) among others.
These studies over the years established high prevalence of protein-energy malnutrition (PEM), especially in children 0-5 and pre-school (IITA, 2004). PEM contributes to as much as 52% of all deaths (Micro Nutrient Initiative, 2004).
National Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS,1990 ) reported 43% stunting among children under five, the UNICEF/OAU Participatory Information Collection study (PIC, 1993) reported 52% stunting, 9% wasting and 36% underweight among children of the same age group.
UNICEF (2004) estimated that approximately one out of three of the children younger than five years are chronically malnourished. They are trapped early in life pattern of ill health and poor development.
It is widely accepted that PEM is associated with a number of micronutrient deficiencies. Micronutrient deficiencies, for example iron deficiency anaemia (IDA), Iodine deficiency disorders (IDD), Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) are also common and contribute to poor physical, emotional and mental development of children as well as reduction in productivity and decreased efficiency in adults, especially mothers.
The UNICEF (1993) study reported that 35% of mothers and 29% of children were anaemic, 7.3% of mothers and 9.2% of children were Vitamin A deficient.
The National Micronutrient Survey (1993) reported even higher figures – 62% women and 75% children were anaemic and 1 out of every 3 children was Vitamin A deficient.
The results of Nigeria Food Consumption and Nutrition Survey (IITA, 2004) showed that despite the advances made over the years in agriculture, research and production, 29.5% of children under 5 were suffering from Vitamin A deficiency, 13.1% of mothers and 19.2% of pregnant women at national level were considered at risk of Vitamin A deficiency, respectively.
About 27.5% of children under 5 were at different stages of iron deficiency. Approximately, 24.3% of mothers and 35.5% of pregnant women were at different stages of iron deficiency
Zinc is now recognized as an essential micronutrient critical in human nutrition (UNICEF, 2002). The clinical syndromes associated with zinc deficiency include growth retardation, male hypogonadism, skin changes, mental lethargy, hepatosenomegaly, iron deficiency anaemia and geophagia (WHO/UNICEF, 2002).