Health Ministry, Dangote, HealthPlus partner to Help end Malnutrition in Nigeria
The Federal Ministry of Health has reiterated its commitment to improving the nutrition of women and children in Nigeria and called for joint efforts from both the private and public sectors to help fight malnutrition.
This was disclosed by the Head of Nutrition, Federal Ministry of Health, Dr Chris Isokpunwu at a gathering in Lagos to announce the 2018 Nutritious Food Fair organised by HealthPlus, Nigeria.
Isokpunwu while pledging government’s support at working and partnering with the necessary bodies, commended the efforts of the organisers in fighting malnutrition in Nigeria.
For the Director, Health and Nutrition, Dangote Foundation, Francis Aminu, Dangote Foundation would partner HarvestPlus to end malnutrition in Nigeria. “Dangote Foundation will make a presence at the NFF,” he said.
He reiterated Dangote’s commitment to invest in nutrition and to provide opportunity for every Nigerian child and woman to live healthy.
The Country Manager HarvestPlus, Mr Paul Ilona said urgent and coordinated efforts were needed to improve nutrition and end the N450bn annual losses in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) caused by malnutrition in Nigeria.
But beyond losses in GDP, Mr Ilona stressed that the number of deaths and irreparable damage to the growth and wellbeing 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, and a deficiency in vitamin A lowers immunity, impairs vision, and may lead to blindness and even death,” he said.
Globally, about 2 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.
Mr Ilona 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, HarvestPlus, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), and National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI), Umudike, in the last two decades, developed and released pro-vitamin A cassava varieties. IITA and HarvestPlus also developed and released pro-vitamin A maize varieties. These varieties are being disseminated to farmers using a multi-pronged approach including awareness campaigns.
In 2015, HarvestPlus convened the first Nutritious Food Fair (NFF) in Abuja—an event to draw attention and promote the cultivation, and consumption of bio-fortified crops as a solution to malnutrition. The 2018 edition of the Nutritious Food Fair (NFF) which is billed to hold in Lagos on 7-9 November, builds on the previous editions and aims to bring awareness on bio-fortification and the dangers of malnutrition to millions of people in Nigeria’s biggest commercial city.
Other participants at the event included the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Technoserve, and the International Potato Center (CIP) among others.