It is a healthy child that attends school, get retained and achieve maximally from it. Good health and proper nutrition are pre-requisites for effective learning. Nutrition as one of the determinants of health contributes greatly in determining the health of individuals. The study examined nutrition and their effects on healthy lives and well-being of pre-school children. The body needs all the food nutrients for healthy lives and well-being. A well fed child has the tendency to grow and develop much better than his malnourished and undernourished counterpart. Malnutrition and under nutrition make children more prone to disease and therefore for healthy, growth and development of children, they require all the food nutrients like carbohydrate, protein, fats, vitamins, water and minerals in appropriate proportion. The most crucial years of developmentwhen children need good nutrition and health is birth to eight years.. It is a critical period for the acquisition of cognitive skills that will carry them through school and influence their life in adulthood.
According to the last National Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS 2013), 29% of Nigerian children less than five years are considered underweight. Today, Nigeria is among the ten countries in the world with the largest number of underweight children with an estimate of six million children affected. The reason why it is a concern is that children who are under nourished have lower resistance to infection and are more likely to die from common childhood ailment such as Malaria, Diarrhea diseases or respiratory infections [UNICEF, 2009].In Nigeria, it is estimated that malnutrition contributes to over 50% of mortality among children aged less than five years. Apart from poor feeding practices and shortfalls in food intake, micronutrient deficiency is a direct cause of child morbidity and mortality. Micronutrients such as iron, iodine, vitamin A and others are necessary for the healthy development of children. Their absence is the direct cause of serious disorders. For example lack of sufficient iodine can lead to goiter, mental and physical impairment [WFP, 2009]. Damages due to iodine deficiency can be avoided by ensuring that the salt used in household is iodized.
Diseases and malnutrition affect children throughout childhood and while school age children are at lower risk of dying from these conditions; disease and malnutrition take their toll on participation and progress in school and learning as well (W.H.O. 2001). Hungry and poorly nourished school children tend to have lower cognitive abilities and naturally perform below their counterparts, more likely to repeat grades and dropout of school.Many of the diseases and malnutrition that impact school age children are preventable and treatable and where highly prevalent, they contribute to absenteeism, reduces learning capacity, and also resulting in lower educational attainment of school children. Nutrition constitutes one of the major sources of childhood health problems.
These problems emanate from either malnutrition or undernourishment which results to certain deficiencies that threaten the life of pre-school children. Nutrient plays vital roles in the life of every child, especially to the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children in the society.It is pathetic to note that millions of children lack the opportunity at an early age which led to long-term cycles of deprivation. It therefore affected their cognitive development from motor skills, learning acquisition and behaviour. Even moderate malnutrition is said to result in altered behaviour including lower activity levels, greater apathy and less enthusiasm for play and exploration [WFP, 2009].Ajayi (2005) listed nutritional problems commonly observed among school children to include nutritional anemia, kwashiorkor, rickets and osteoporosis, added to these are health problem associated with either nutrient overdose or nutrient under dose. They include skin rash, hair loss, bleeding gums, goiter; angular stomatitis and so forth. Individual with excess of calories may even become obese and vulnerable to diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and so forth.
Malnourished children are highly susceptible to health problems like nervousness, irritability and inability to concentrate. They also lack the capacity to form the necessary antibodies to fight infections. In deed inadequate food intake adversely affects the growth and nutritional status of growing children particularly those from the disadvantaged sections of the community. Being the most vulnerable segment of the population, the pre-school children are at great risk of nutrition since their growth demand high intake of calories and proteins. Malnutrition is a condition that has found to affect educational outcome of children. Studies in developing countries indicated that severely malnourished infants have below average mental capacity, language proficiency, school performance and adaptive capacity at subsequent ages. (UNICEF2001). More so in school aged children, mild and moderate malnutrition has been linked with poor judgment in attention and a heightened risk of illness which ultimately affect their intellectual development adversely (WFP, 2009).Other studies carried out in Lagos State have indicated that many primary school children are malnourished [ Adeogun and William ,Boroffice 1993) which they concluded that several primary school children have been prevented by illness from making the best of the school experience provided them.