How Malnutrition Affects Cognitive Development in Children Under Two

POST AND PHOTOS BY MAGGIE ANDRESEN // PUBLISHED SEPTEMBER 2017

 A mother and her child at a GHI health center training in Musanze. 

A mother and her child at a GHI health center training in Musanze. 

Garden for Health International (GHI) targets Rwanda’s most vulnerable families for comprehensive nutrition intervention within the first 1000 days of a child’s life. Acutely and chronically malnourished children under two are the primary demographic GHI identifies when enrolling new families into our agriculture and health trainings. This is largely due to strong evidence linking early childhood malnutrition with impaired cognitive development. Nutritional intervention in earlier stages of malnutrition increases the chance of a child catching up to their peer group in terms of cognitive development, and not succumbing to related mental and physical problems statistically more likely to emerge in malnourished children later in life.

According to the 2016 Global Nutrition Report, an estimated 37% of Rwandese children are diagnosed as chronically malnourished. This is concerning especially when examining the vital role that nutrients play in early brain development. By age two, a child’s brain has already reached 80% of its adult mass. Similarly, it has also achieved significant brain synapse development (synapses provide the infrastructure for neurons to communicate with one another). They facilitate the transfer of vital information to different areas of the brain. To reach full brain growth potential, it is critical that sufficient nutrients be incorporated into the diets of young children, because of their function in cell growth, DNA synthesis, the metabolism of hormones and neurotransmitters, and other significant enzyme activity in the brain.

 

 A child participating in GHI’s Early Childhood Development program at a health center training in Musanze. 

A child participating in GHI’s Early Childhood Development program at a health center training in Musanze. 

In a study comparing Indian children of average nutrition intake and their malnourished peers, it was found that the school-aged malnourished group presented lower IQs, less cognitive functioning, lower school performance, and a higher propensity for disciplinary action. These results are consistent with other reports of low school attendance and performance in malnourished children living in South Africa, Jamaica, the Philippines, and Brazil.

 Igilaneza Fiellete at a seed selection agriculture training in Busogo, Musanze.

Igilaneza Fiellete at a seed selection agriculture training in Busogo, Musanze.

Stunting, or the impaired growth and development of a child due to poor nutrition within the first two years of life, is further linked to shorter adult height and reduced adult income especially in jobs requiring manual labor. The ramifications of childhood malnutrition are potentially severe to national economies, as underdeveloped children grow into adults who cannot reach their full potential either in school or the workforce. Elevated healthcare costs, low productivity in the workplace, and a small pool of skilled labor are some of the national projected outcomes in aging populations challenged by childhood malnutrition. While the majority of stunted children in the world live in Asia, Africa is the only region where stunting is on the rise. In Rwanda, 38% of children under 5 are stunted, totalling to about 900,000 children nationwide.

Gardens for Health International looks to intervene before the potentially devastating effects of malnutrition begin maturing in children past the threshold for recovering cognitive development. Although the African region has the highest global rates of food insecurity, GHI believes that by providing comprehensive health training programs, targeted agricultural support, and seeds/inputs, we can empower families to overcome malnutrition in their homes and communities, setting children on a path to better health and future success.

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Uko Imirire Mibi Idindiza Imikurire y’abana Bari Munsi y’Imyaka Ibiri.

Umurima w’ubuzima wibanda cyane ku miryango y’abanyarwanda imeze nabi kugirango ubafashe kugira imirire myiza mu gihe kingana n’iminsi 1000 ibanza y’ubizima bw’umwana. Abana bagwingiye bya vuba cyangwa  kera bari munsi y’imyaka ibiri nibo Umurima w’ubuzima wibandaho cyane iyo urimo guhitamo imiryango yo gushyira muri gahunda yacu yo gutanga amahugurwa ku buzima n’ubuhinzibworozi. Ibi biterwa ahanini nuko byagaragaye ko kugwingira kw’bana bifite aho bihuriye n’imikurire yabo. Kwita ku mirere y’abana hakiri kare byongera amahirwe y’abana yo gukura neza nkuko bikwiye bikagabanya ibibazo bagira mu mitekerereze ndetse n’imikurire yabo bikunze kugaragara cyane mu bana bafite ikibazo cy’imirire mibi.

Tugendeye kuri raporo yo 2016 ya Globa Nutrition, Abana b’abanyarwanda bagera kuri 37% bafite imirire mibi. Ibi bijyanye ahanini n’igihe hakorwa igenzura ry’ukuntu intungamubiri zifite akamaro mu mikurire y’ubwonko bw’umwana. Ku myaka ibiri, ubwonko bw’umwana buba bumaze gukura ku kigero cya 80%. Aha imiyoboro y’ubwonko iiba ifite ubushobozi bwo kujyana amakuru mu bindi bice byose by’ubwinko. Kugirango rero ubwonko bushobore gukora neza, n’ibyigenzi cyane ko abana bahabwa  indyo ifite intungamubiri zihagije kugirango babashe gukura neza ubwonko n’imisemburo yo mu mibiri yabo igakora neza.

Mu nyigo igereranya abana bo gihugu cy’ubuhinde bafite imirire myiza n’abafite imirire mibi, byagaragye ko abana bafite imirire mibi bagejeje imyaka yo kujya ku ishuli bafite imitekerereze iri hasi cyane, badatsinda mu ishuli, kandi bakagira imico mibi cyane. Iki cyegeranyo kandi gisa nicy’umubare muto w’abana bitabira amashuli n’ababona amanota macye muri Afurika Yepfo, Jamaica, Philipines ndetse na Brazil.

Kugwingira k’umwana guterwa n’imirire mibi mu myaka ibiri y’ubuzima bwe bifite aho bihuriye no kuba mugufi cyane ndetse no kudatera imbere kwe iyo akuze cyane cyane  mu iyo akora imirimo isaba imbaraga. Imirire mibi y’abana akenshi niyo idindiza iterambere ry’igihugu kubera ko iyo abana batariye neza, iyo babaye abantu bakuru ntago bakora neza haba mu ishuli cyangwa mu kazi. Kurwaragurika no guta amafaranga  amafaranga menshi mu kwivuza, batagira imbaaraga zo gukora ngo bitezimbere, kubyara umusaruro mucye, ndetse n,aabakozi badafite ubumenyi buhagije nibyo bitera ingaruka z’imirire mibi mu gihugu. Nubwo abana benshi bajya ku mashuli ari abo ku mugabane wa Asia, Africa niyo ifite abana benshi bagwingiye. Mu Rwanda 38% by’abana bari munsi y’imyaka 5 baragwingiye bakaba babarirwa ku 900,0000 mu gihugu  hose.

Umurima w’ubuzima ugerageza kugira icyo ukora mbere yuko ingaruka mbi ziterwa n’imirire mibi zigera mu bana barenze igiihe cyo gukira kugwingira. Nubwo Africa ifite umubare munini w’ihindagurika ry’umusaruro uturuka ku buhingwa, Umurima w’Ubuzima wizera ko utanze amahugurwa ku buzima, ugafasha mu buhinzibworozi, ndetse ukanatanga imbuto zibihingwa zitandukanye, dushobora kongerera imbaraga imiryango itandukanye zo kurwanya imirire mibi haba mu ngo zabo ndetse na kominote batuyemo bizafasha abana kugera ku nzira yo kugira umubuzima bwiza bakaziteza imbere mu gihe kizaza.