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Nutrition and development

Nothing is more important than early care and nurturing

 Nothing is more important than early care and nurturing
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Dr. A.M.M. Anisul Awwal :
The development of Bangladesh has already become a wonder for many countries of the world and everyone is eager to know the secret strategy of such a quick economic growth and overall development. Starting from education sector to ICT to Health - all the sectors and sub-sectors are developing keeping a close synchronization with each other so that no imbalance can occur to de-stabilize the sustainability of the developmental pace.
Bangladesh has already been identified by all the global economic forums as one of the most rapidly growing economy of the world. Within a short span of 10 years of time, the country has shown tremendous economic growth, and thus, has become a lower middle income country.
If we consider the indices of health, nutrition and population, these (indices) will definitely depict appreciable improvement over the past few years. It is now not a wonder to us (but may be for many other countries) that in health sector, with the expansion of service delivery systems up to village levels, millions of valuable lives are being saved every year. Achievement of EPI program, Vitamin-A administration, ORS and other public health programs and policies brought a revolution in the country which has become a role model for many developing countries.  
Although, latest data depicts that the extent and magnitude of malnutrition has reduced significantly from that of the previous surveys, nevertheless, the percentage of malnutrition level is still unacceptably high. In the developing countries, about 55-60% deaths among children under 5 years of age are attributable to malnutrition. About 60-70% pregnant women and children less than 5 years of age have been suffering from nutritional anaemia (iron deficiency anaemia). About 35% populations have iodine deficiency and 20% have goiters of various grades. The incidence and prevalence of night blindness and blindness due to Vitamin-A deficiency are also noticeably high, but within acceptable range amongst the under five populations.
In normal physiological state, a healthy mother gives birth to a child weighing usually about 3 to 3.3 Kg. The rate of growth of children since birth should be at least 3.3 Kg at birth, 6.0 kg at three months, 7.8 kg at five months, 9.2 kg at nine months, 10.2 kg at 12 months, 11.5 kg at 18 months and 12.6 kg at 24 months. Birth weight is an important parameter which could be indicative of the immediate viability of the neonate, the State of maternal health and nutrition before and during pregnancy, respect for the women women's rights and most importantly the future quality of life of the baby.  
Every child since the beginning of the journey of life should have the best possible start, every child should receive a stimulation of connectivity, every child should get good quality of basic education, every child should have the opportunities to develop his or her full potential and contribute to society in meaningful ways. Most of the brain development happens before a child reaches three years of age. In a short span of 36 months, children develop their abilities to think and speak, learn and reason, and lay the foundation for their values and social behavior as adults. Choices made and actions taken on behalf of children during this critical period affect not only how a child develops but also how a country progresses.
With brain connections proliferating explosively during the first three years of life, children discover new things virtually in every waking moment. At birth, a baby has about 100 billion brain cells. Most of these cells are not connected to each other and cannot function on their own. They must be organized into networks that require trillions of connections or synapses between them. These connections are miracles of the human body, depending partly on genes and partly on the events of early life. Many kinds of experiences affect: how young brains develop, but nothing is more important than early care and nurturing.
The uniqueness of the human brain lies not only in its size and complexity but also in the properties that make it extraordinarily interactive with experience. Every touch, movement and motion is translated into electrical and chemical activity that shifts the genetic momentum. Human interactions are as important to the development of brain connections as having food to eat, sounds to hear and light to see. There are periods in life when the brain is particularity open to new experiences and especially able to take advantage of them. If these sensitive periods pass by without the brain receiving the stimulation for which it is primed, opportunities for various aspects of development may be substantially reduced.
When infants are held and touched in soothing ways, they tend to thrive. The brain's malleability during these early years also means that when children do not get the care they need, or if they experience starvation, malnutrition, abuse or neglect, their brain development may be compromised. Early childhood period starts from fertilization of ovum in the uterus. The effects of what happens during the prenatal period and during the early months and years of a child's life can last a lifetime. It affects all the key ingredients of emotional intelligence, confidence, curiosity, intention, self-control, relatedness, capacity to communicate and cooperativeness that determine how a child learns and relates in school and in life. It is, of course, never too late for children to improve their nutrition, health and development, to learn new skills, overcome fears or change their beliefs.
The issue itself is a cross-cutting one, and thus, should be tackled from multiple directions. The core importance lies in the efficient management of BCC (behavioural change communication) activities at all levels of intervention with optimum services utilizing the experts of the country. The role of the journalists and the mass media is magnanimous and unique in creating a positive attitude towards expected behavior change in relation to health, family planning and malnutrition through innovative ideas, constructive criticism, reporting, supporting, writing, forming interest groups, etc. In this modern era, the 'key to success' in the social sector is largely in the hands of the journalists and the mass media along with the sincere devotion of the persons involved in the implementation of nutritional activities.

 (PID Feature by Ex. Joint Secretary, Ministry of Labour and Employment)

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