The first 1 000 days of a child’s life is a unique opportunity when nutrition can make the difference between a promising future and one that is plagued with poor health and faltering growth.
Considering the potential that timely, adequate, safe and properly fed complementary foods can play in addressing infants and young children’s nutritional needs. 2 clinical studies were conducted by teams of scientific researchers in Cameroon and Ghana, with the support of the NNIA. The studies aimed to evaluate the efficacy of an iron fortified infant cereal to improve the nutritional status of children from 6 to 59 months, and prevent or correct anemia.
In Cameroon, the study first assessed the nutritional status of infants under 5 years in 5 ecological regions. A second phase was conducted (Feb – Aug 2017) in the most critical region, where 75% of children under the age of 5 suffered from anaemia. It was a randomised double-blind clinical trial with children divided into 2 groups. ‘A and B’. Both groups received the same amount of cereal (50 g) twice a day, with one group receiving an infant cereal fortified with iron while the other received one that was not.
Results demonstrated a statistical increase in haemoglobin and a significant increase in adjusted ferritin in the group of children consuming the cereal A. In addition, the prevalence of anemia, iron deficiency, and ferric anemia significantly decreased by 34.0%, 53.8%, and 53.8% in group A compared to group B. A break of the code confirmed that group A received the fortified infant cereal. Independently of iron fortification, feeding the infant with this cereal recipe had significant positive impact on the nutritional status of the infants. A medical student involved in the study used the clinical trial as a medical thesis, which he submitted for his graduation as general practitioner.
In Ghana, the study was also a double-blinded randomised case control intervention. It involved 6-month feeding period, which was followed with post intervention evaluation at the 8th month, with the objective of giving an indication of what happens if the feeding is stopped. Iron fortified infant cereal significantly increased the level of haemoglobin from baseline to end line in the intervention group compared when compared to the control group. Anaemia prevalence had declined from (84.1% to 42.8% vs. 89.1% to 62.8%) in the intervention and control groups respectively.
After a 2-month post intervention period where feeding was withdrawn, we noticed a decline in haemoglobin levels for both the intervention and control groups. The same as Cameroon’s results, and according to the nutritional status evolution in the 2 groups, it’s clear that infant cereal fortified with iron or without iron has the potential to improve the general nutritional status of children.
The findings of these studies showed that iron fortified complementary food has the potential to meet the evolving nutritional needs of children after the 6-month exclusive breastfeeding period when breast milk alone is no longer as rich in iron and other nutrients. Thus, this cereal, which is a good example of food fortification aiming to fight micronutrients deficiency, could help to reduce malnutrition in our region.
On 13 and 14 November 2017, graduation ceremonies were held in Bloemfontein and Bryanston respectively. Over 70 healthcare professionals received their Post Graduate certificates in Paediatric Nutrition (PGPN) from Boston University School of Medicine, sponsored by the Nestlé Nutrition Institute Africa (NNIA).
The graduation ceremonies were officiated by Dr Carine Lenders, a paediatric, gastroenterologist and physician nutrition specialist. Dineo Molatedi, NNIA South Africa Coordinator said: “We sponsored this educational programme with an endeavour to contribute to improving the nutritional status of African children”. This programme offers a unique opportunity to strengthen healthcare professionals’ knowledge and practice in paediatric nutrition
The NNIA and the Post Graduate Program in Pediatic Nutrition (PGPN) successfully completed the last round of the 2017 PGPN symposium and graduation ceremony in Maputo on the 28th of November 2017. The function was hosted at Afrin Prestige Hotel in Maputo, with graduates from Nampula, Beira and Maputo attending. It was once more great to hear how the programme has enhanced their quality of the lives, especially in their clinical settings, they are now empowered and confident to manage nutritional issues in their hospitals, clinics and their communities