The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has said the first 1,000 days of a child is crucial for his or her physical development and brain growth, as well as a critical period that underscores the survival of a child.
Similarly, the UNICEF also stressed that a woman’s nutrition during pregnancy, breastfeeding as well as baby’s nurturing care in the first two years is extremely important for a healthy future.
The Chief of UNICEF Field Office Bauchi, Dr. Tushar Rane, stated this during a two-day media dialogue on the ‘First 1,000 Days of a Child’s Life’, organised by UNICEF Bauchi Field Office for participants drawn from Gombe, Taraba, Bauchi, Adamawa States and Abuja, held in Gombe State yesterday.
According to him, “The first 1,000 days of life is the time spanning between conception and a child’s second birthday which is an important period of opportunity when the foundations of optimum health, growth, and neurodevelopment across the lifespan are established.”
Rane, who spoke on ‘What is first 1,000 days? Why is it important to child survival and lifelong thriving?’, said maternal and child nutrition and health can determine the child’s ability to grow, stressing that poor nutrition in the first 1,000 days causes irreversible damage to a child’s growing brain and body.
“The period of rapid brain growth and maturation is 80 percent by two years, and failure of growth during this period is associated with long-term consequences, which include schooling, productivity and income. Neuronal pathways develop most rapidly in the first 1,000 days; however, poor children are at great risk of malnutrition in the first 1,000 days of their lives.
“Stunting is associated with increased risk of cognitive impairment while gaps between the risk and poor in reading, language, and cognitive development emerge before primary school. Also, cognitive/linguistics delays accumulate early and last a lifetime, hence early life is a sensitive period for brain development.”
The UNICEF chief said if a child is not properly breast-fed or given the proper nutrition early, a case of stunting sets in which has potential consequences, pointing out that nurturing care in early life is very important.
Speaking earlier, the Communication Officer, UNICEF Field Office Bauchi, Opeyemi Olagunju, said the objective of the media dialogue was to educate journalists on the peculiar threats to a healthy first 1,000 days in the Bauchi Field Office focus states and the extent of implications so that stakeholders can rise up to the occasion in addressing the threats.
He added that the media dialogue would also aim to create awareness for the media on the importance of the first 1,000 days to child survival as well as highlight to the media the peculiar threats to a healthy first 1,000 days.