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The first 1000 days of life, a period of opportunity for the well-nourished child


Jun 20, 2023

BUJUMBURA June 20th (ABP) – “Parents in general and women in particular, must adopt a balanced diet especially in the first 1000 days of life to prevent malnutrition in their children”, declared the Deputy Director of the National Food and Nutrition Program (PRONIANUT), at the Ministry of Public Health and the Fight against AIDS, Dr Angelique Nshimirimana, in her presentation, during the media workshop on nutrition, held from June 1 to 2, 2023 in Bujumbura.

Dr. Nshimirimana first recalled that malnutrition is the disproportion between food intake and the nutritional needs of the body, resulting in an imbalance or physical and physiological alteration of the body. This alteration is noticeable by the lack of strength to work, the development of certain deficiency diseases such as Kwashiorkor, marasmus, anemia, or metabolic diseases, such as diabetes, gout and other diseases.

She pointed out that there are two types of malnutrition, namely acute malnutrition, which is a state of edema in children, which occurs quickly following a temporary food deficiency or a succession of episodes of illness, during which the child fails to recover his health.

There is also chronic malnutrition which is a delay in the development of the child, in particular a delay in growth in height. This form of malnutrition comes on slowly and often goes unnoticed.

That health professional insisted on the period of the first 1000 days of life, i.e., the 9 months of pregnancy, that is, 270 days, and at birth up to 23 months or 2 years, i.e., 728 days, as a period of opportunity, where it is necessary to adopt a balanced diet for the pregnant woman because a malnourished pregnant woman has a greater risk of having a malnourished child. Then, from birth until 6 months, she advised Burundian women to practice exclusive breastfeeding, which consists of giving only breast milk to the child up to 6 months, without giving him any other food, nor even water, except for a medicine prescribed by the nursing staff.

After 6 months up to 2 years, women are invited to give their children a complementary diet, fortified, rich in vitamins B, D, iodine, iron, i.e., eating a balanced and varied diet with a good intake of fruits and vegetables, and continue breastfeeding until the age of 2 years and beyond.

She said good nutrition during the first 1,000 days of life is essential for a child’s brain development, motor and intellectual capacity, socio-emotional competence, physical growth and development.

The major role of food during this period is partly explained by the fact that a lot of energy is needed to sustain the intense brain activity of the first 1000 days of life. A large amount of the food ingested by the infant would be used for that purpose. For this reason, an insufficient food intake, both in terms of quantity and nutritional quality, will cause stunted growth in the future child.

As a result, malnourished children are more likely to die, get sick or have poor school performance, she said. People who suffered from malnutrition in childhood are more likely to be short in adulthood and to be less productive at work. Malnutrition also has economic consequences, in that it reduces the gross domestic product by 2 to 3%, following the lowering of productivity. “Malnourished children as adults earn 10-17% less than those well-nourished in childhood”.