The right kind of investment for nutrition By Jide Ayobolu

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OrijoReporter.com, The right kind of investment for nutrition By Jide Ayobolu

Finance minister, Kemi Adeosun, says Nigeria must stop talking and invest in nutrition.

Speaking at the Nutrition in the Spotlight meeting at the spring meeting of World Bank and International Monetary Fund in Washington, DC, Adeosun said, “It’s not about narrative, it’s about action.”

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Adeosun joined her Guatemalan counterpart, Julio Hector Estrada, and World Bank Group president, Jim Yong Kim, alongside singer Yvonne Chaka Chaka in Washington recently.

The World Bank, in line with recent investment in nutrition, estimates that malnutrition costs the global economy $3.5 trillion per year. “There are no excuses for failing to invest in nutrition and we’re going to do everything we can to make neglect hurt for the powerful,” said Jim.

One in three globally faces malnutrition, including 156 million children worldwide too short for their age. In Nigeria, 37% of under five children are too short for their age, 18 out every 100 are too thin for their age and 29% are underweight.

Nearly 20 out of every 100 newborns don’t get breast milk within the first hour of birth, and only 17 out of every 100 newborns are fed exclusively on breast milk for the first six months of life, according to the latest National Demographic Health Survey.

“The evidence is abundantly clear that the ties between nutrition and economic prosperity run deep, and the world (Nigeria inclusive) cannot afford to wait to increase investments in this area,” said the Civil Society for Scaling Up Nutrition in Nigeria, CS-SUNN, which took part in the meeting.

The UK’s Department for International Development, which supported the meeting, has pledged to match every $1 investment in nutrition with $3. CS-SUNN project director, Beatrice Eluaka, says the Nigeria Government has the bulk of the role if malnutrition is to be addressed. She urged government to develop and implement Strategic Plan of Action for the National Food and Nutrition Policy (NFNP-2016-2025), fully implement the National Strategic Plan of Action on Nutrition (NSPAN, 2014 -2019) at the National and all states in Nigeria, and create specific nutrition budget lines in all relevant departments and agencies across the federation. CS-SUNN also wants timely release of allocated funds to nutrition in the 2017 budget.

Nutrition also focuses on how diseases, conditions and problems can be prevented or lessened with a healthy diet. In addition, nutrition involves identifying how certain diseases, conditions or problems may be caused by dietary factors, such as poor diet (malnutrition), food allergies, metabolic diseases, etc.

The Bible, Book of Daniel – Daniel was captured by the King of Babylon and had to serve in the King’s court. Daniel objected to being fed fine foods and wine, saying he preferred vegetables, pulses and water.

The chief steward reluctantly agreed to a trial, comparing Daniel’s dietary preference to those of the court of the King of Babylon. For ten days Daniel and his men had their vegetarian diet, while the King’s men had theirs. The trial revealed that Daniel and his men were healthier and fitter, so they were allowed to carry on with their diet.

Hippocrates (Greece, ca460BC – ca370BC), one nutrient theory – according to Hippocrates everybody is the same, no matter what they have been eating, or where they have lived. He concluded that every food must contain one nutrient which makes us the way we are. This one-nutrient myth continued for thousands of years. Hippocrates is also famous for having said “Let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food.”

Facts about nutrition in Nigeria,
1) Nigeria is a food deficit country and is Africa’s largest importer of rice.
2) One third of children under 5 are stunted. That’s twice the rate of Thailand and three times that of Tunisia.
3) A child in the remote northwestern region of Nigeria – where stunting rates are around 55 percent – is four times more likely to experience malnutrition than a child in the south.
4) At the same time, child obesity is increasing and 33 percent of adults are obese or overweight. That’s roughly on par with Singapore.
5) Nearly half of women of reproductive age (48.5 percent) are anaemic. This ranks Nigeria 172th best out of 185 countries.
6) Conflict with Boko Haram in northeastern Nigeria has left a large part of the population without access to enough food, water and health services.
7) Displacement, lack of access to many locations, high inflation and reduced purchasing power of communities are worsening the food security situation in northeastern Nigeria.
8) Over 3 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance due to conflict.
9) In March 2016, WFP began providing cash transfers via mobile phones to displaced persons and host communities in critical areas. This gives them the opportunity to buy the food they need.
10) In partnership with the Government and other agencies such as UNICEF, WFP is scaling up its assistance in northeastern Nigeria to reach a total of 431,000 people in desperate need, including malnourished children and pregnant and nursing women.
Nigeria launched its National Policy on Food and Nutrition in 2002, with the overall goal of improving the nutritional status of all Nigerians. This policy sets specific targets, which include reduction of severe and moderate malnutrition among children under five by 30% by 2010, and reduction of micronutrient deficiencies (principally of vitamin A, iodine and iron) by 50% by 2010. To tackle malnutrition, Nigeria has identified the following strategies:
• Improving Food Security through programmes and projects in the agricultural and non-agricultural sectors to increase household income especially in the poorer segment of the population.
• Enhancing care-givers’ capacity by promoting optimal infant feeding practices and reducing the workload of women to create more time for childcare, through the development of labour saving technologies
• Improving Health services to provide essential maternal and child health care
• Controlling micronutrient deficiency and aneamia through a strategy comprising vitamin and mineral supplementation, food fortification and dietary diversification.
•Eliminating Iodine Deficiency Disorder through salt iodization programme
•Institutionalizing general consumer protection measures to safeguard food quality and consumer health.

The National Planning Commission through the National Committee on Food and Nutrition (NCFN) serves as the focal point for the co-ordination and harmonization of all food and nutrition related policies and programmes in the country. The Federal Ministry of Health, the Federal Ministry of Industry, the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC), the Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON), the National Primary Health Care Development Agency are also involved in the Government nutrition programmes.

Malnutrition remains a major health and development issue in Nigeria and contributes to as much as 50 per cent of the deaths of children under five in the country. Nigeria has attempted to address the issue of malnutrition by developing a national food and nutrition policy plan of action, which is currently under review, and a multi-sectoral Nutrition Partners Platform to drive and coordinate commitment and action. Nigeria had recognized the role of nutrition as a development issue and had committed to addressing malnutrition with the adoption of a National Health Strategic Development Plan which recognizes nutrition as an important component. To recognize the multi-sectorality of nutrition, the National Policy on Food and Nutrition (2001) and National Plan of Action (2004) were established to ensure implementation of the policy was coordinated with clear roles and responsibilities for each related sector.

Food-based dietary guidelines for Nigeria – a guide to healthy eating; The guidelines were developed by the Ministries of Health, Agriculture and Rural Development and Information; universities, the World Health Organization, Helen Keller International, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, and paediatric and nutrition societies.

The dietary guidelines apply to all healthy Nigerians and include recommendations for different population groups. The Nigerian food guide is a food pyramid divided into five food groups. At the bottom are bread, grains and tubers, followed by vegetables and fruits. Both groups are to be eaten at every meal. Eggs, fish, meat and dairy are on the third level, and are to be eaten in moderation. Oils and fats should be eaten sparingly according to the pyramid, with confectionery limited to rare occasions.

A glass of water is placed outside of the pyramid with the advice to always drink plenty of water.
•Total food intake should take into consideration a person’s level of physical activity.
•Individuals who do manual work need to consume more food than those who do sedentary work.
•Limit fat intake from animal foods.
•The diet should contain as wide a variety of foods as possible, e.g. cereals, legumes, roots/tubers, fruits, vegetables, fish, lean meat, local cheese (wara).
• Limit intake of salt, bouillon cubes and sugar.
• Liberal consumption of whatever fruit is in season is encouraged.

The Costs of under nutrition
• Over one-third of child deaths are due to under-nutrition, mostly from increased severity of disease.
• Children who are undernourished between conception and age two are at high risk for impaired cognitive development, which adversely affects the country’s productivity and growth.
• The economic costs of under nutrition include direct costs such as the increased burden on the healthcare system, and indirect costs of lost productivity.
• Childhood anemia alone is associated with a 2.5% drop in adult wages.
The situation of nutrition in Nigeria
• Nigeria is the country with the 3rd highest absolute number of children who are stunted.
• 41% of children under the age of Five are stunted, 23% are underweight, and 14% are wasted.
• 14% Of infants are born with a low birth weight.
• Nigeria has achieved near universal salt iodization: 97% of households consume iodized salt.

This is a major factor in preventing iodine deficiency, which can cause IQ loss in infants and young children. Nigeria should be commended for this achievement and universal salt iodization is important to continue.

Therefore, the Nigerian government must further invest heavily in nutrition and nutritional issues of her huge population, this will go a long way to resolve a lot of issues around the twin issue of real growth and development in the polity, as well as assist in taking the country out of recession and swiftly growth the economy exponentially.

Ayobolu, a public affairs analyst contributed this piece from Lagos State.

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