UNICEF engages journalists in media dialogue on importance of first 1,000 days of a child's life

By Williams Ago, Gombe

The Bauchi Field Office of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), has ended a two day brainstorming session with some selected journalists from the Northeast and Abuja on the survival prospects and importance of the first 1,000 days of a child's life.

During the two day session, held at Emerald Hotel Gombe, UNICEF resource persons and the journalists identified the first 1,000 days of the life of a child between conception and the child's second birthday as a critical period that underscores the survival of the child.

According to scientifically proven evidence, the 1,000 days of a child from conception, presents an opportunity to lay solid foundation for the child's life time development.

However, despite the significance of the first 1,000 days due to varying factors, millions of children, mostly in the developing world, including Nigeria, do not access the basic elements they require for a solid first 1,000 days.

The media dialogue was therefore intended to create awareness for journalists on the importance of the first 1,000 days to child survival and thriving as well as highlight to the media the peculiar threats to a healthy 1,000 days of the child.

According to Tushar Rane, the Chief UNICEF Field Officer, Bauchi, in a virtual appearance, the first 1,000 days of a child is crucial for physical development and brain growth and 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.

Mr. Tushar Rane alerted that poor nutrition in the first 1,000 days of a child causes irreversible damage to the child's growing brain and body stressing that maternal and child nutrition and health can determine the child's ability to grow.

"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 includes, schooling, productivity and income.

"Stunting is associated with increased risk of cognitive impairment while gaps between the rich and the poor in reading, language, cognitive development emerge before primary school.

"If a child is not properly breastfed or given the proper nutrition early, a case of stunting sets in which have potential consequences", Mr Rane said, stressing that nurturing care in early life is very important.

In a paper titled, "the media behavior change and development linkage", presented by Professor Umar Ali Pate, vice-chancellor of the Federal University, Kashere, Gombe State, on the occasion, he urged the media to invest in technology, research, content, safety and freedom of journalists, credibility and ensure adequate funding of their respective media organizations.

He said, the world is evolving with latest trends of technology where people's media consumption are changing with competitive demands.

According to him, "since the media is an important component in behavioral change, it must invest in research to change the negetive perception of people towards development issues".

Communication Officer, UNICEF Field Office in Bauchi, Opeyemi Olagunju, encouraged journalists on the need to be educated, beware and impact the public positively so as to influence change and behavioral peculiar threats to healthy first 1,000 days of a child's life so that the public and stakeholders can rise up to the occasion according to the threats.

At the end of the dialogue, the journalists were taken to the field for an on-the-spot assessment of the situation on ground in five health care facilities within Gombe, the State capital, to see the reality of the situation.

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