A young child suffering from the terrible effects of malnutrition.

NGO Urge FG to Implement Nutrition Policy For Children With Special Needs

The Maternal Adolescent Reproductive Child Health Care Initiative, a non-governmental Organisation has urged the Federal Government to implement Maternal Infant and Young Child Nutrition Policy for children with special needs.

The President of the initiative, Mrs. Lawal Aiyedun-Olubunmi, made the call during a three-day training on Nutrition for Children with Special Needs in Abuja, supported by USAID to mark 2023 World Breastfeeding Week.

Annually commemorated from August 1-7 around the globe to raise awareness about the significance of breastfeeding, this year’s has ‘Enabling Breastfeeding: Making a Difference for Working Parents’ as the theme for 2023.

Aiyedun-Olubunmi said the event would highlight infant and young children’s nutrition in exceptionally difficult circumstances, curb the burden of cerebral palsy and scale up health insurance coverage for children with special needs.

She commended the Federal Ministry of Health Nutrition Department for integrating children with special needs in the MYCIN policy and called on the government to implement the policy across the country.

“Before an intervention can be meaningful, there must be a policy, and with a policy in place, NGOs and partners can advocate and make demands from relevant authorities and stakeholders.

“Two years ago, we started policy formulation on nutrition with the government, led by FMoH. It included adolescent pregnancy and infant nutrition, nutrition in emergencies and feeding in exceptionally difficult circumstances, and covers children with special needs.

“Parents of children with special needs require intervention, their life is grossly affected by the condition of their children and they can’t keep stable jobs. The financial burden is very high.

“The nutrition policy is completed; we are now at implementation, which is very important, and we are calling on government across all states to key in and support families and children with special needs,” she appealed.

A doctor from the Benue State University, Department of Paediatrics, Dr. Ogbu Onyilo, said the benefits of breastfeeding and nutrition cannot be over-emphasised for infants and children with special needs.

He said children with neurological disorders such as cerebral palsy commonly have problems with their body movement, intellectual cognitive function, intellectual capacity, vision, and swallowing food, among others.

He, therefore, gave tips and strategies for nurturing children with cerebral palsy, advising parents to position their children in an upright position before feeding them, so that the food can go the right way without aspirating.

“The frequency or consistency of their food is encouraged, mothers should give them semi-solid foods, containing all classes of food, and adequate water in a slow and steady manner, ”Dr. Onyilo advised.

Dr. Iloh Kenechukwu of the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital spoke on coping mechanisms and advised parents and caregivers to have a good support system from the immediate, and extended family and other support groups.

Other tips, he said, include caregivers taking care of themselves, seeking help and sharing experiences, and not getting into compassion fatigue, thereby burning out and becoming ineffective to themselves and the children.

Kenechukwu called on the government to improve the working environment of health facilities across the country and remuneration to reduce the number of health personnel leaving the country.

A health worker, Mrs. Regina Eva-Gugong, said the programme was enlightening, and thanked MARCH Initiative for the training.

She said, “This training has taught me to show more professional, emotional and physical support to families and children with special needs and I hope such initiative can be implemented in other states.”