A coalition of nutrition advocates led by HarvestPlus has called for a collaborative effort in addressing malnutrition in the country.
At a stakeholders meeting to announce the 2018 Nutritious Food Fair, Paul Ilona Country Manager for HarvestPlus said that addressing malnutrition in the country will require political and collective will.
He said that urgent and coordinated efforts were needed to improve nutrition and end the N450 billion annual losses in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) caused by malnutrition in Nigeria, stressing that the number of deaths and irreparable damage to the growth and well-being of children under five and women were alarming.
“For instance, if you take vitamin A deficiency in Nigeria, 30 percent of children under five years are estimated to be vitamin A deficient. A deficiency in vitamin A lowers immunity, impairs vision, and may lead to blindness and even death,” he said.
According to him, report has it that globally, about two billion people in the developing world do not get enough essential vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin A, Zinc, and Iron in their daily diets.
He described the lack of essential vitamins and minerals as “Hidden Hunger,” adding that those who suffer from this situation were usually vulnerable to illnesses and infections.
“In severe cases, hidden hunger can leave children blind, stunted, or with reduced intelligence quotient (IQ), and increases a woman’s risk of dying during pregnancy,” he explained.
To address the challenge of malnutrition, Ilona said that HarvestPlus and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), and National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI), Umudike, in the last two decades, developed and released provitamin A cassava varieties.
He further stated that IITA and HarvestPlus also developed and released provitamin A maize varieties and that these varieties are being disseminated to farmers using a multi-pronged approach including awareness campaigns.
While speaking on the forthcoming nutritious food fair, Ilona said that the 2018 edition is billed to hold in Lagos between November 7 and 9 at Landmark Event Centre, Victoria Island.
He said that this year’s edition will build on the previous editions and aims to bring awareness on biofortification and the dangers of malnutrition to millions of people in Nigeria’s biggest commercial city.
Francis Aminu of Dangote Foundation said Dangote Foundation would partner HarvestPlus to end malnutrition in Nigeria.
He reiterated Dangote’s commitment to invest in nutrition and to provide opportunity for every Nigerian child and woman to live healthy.
Dr Chris Isokpunwu, Head of Nutrition, Federal Ministry of Health commended HarvestPlus for its efforts in fighting malnutrition in Nigeria.
While pledging the commitment of the Federal Government of Nigeria to improve the nutrition of women and children, he called for joint efforts from both the private and public sectors to help fight malnutrition.