Nigeria in global web of malnutrition crisis
By Lawal Dahiru Mamman
Malnutrition, generally, is when humans or any other living organism get little or insufficient food nutrients, resulting in health problems. Nigeria is one of the 12 countries recently declared as the epicentre of global nutrition crisis.
The other 11, mostly African nations, are Burkina Faso, Chad, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Afghanistan, and Yemen. COVID-19, war in Ukraine and conflicts in some of these countries are factors that have exacerbated the situation.
Barely seven years ago, the number of under-nourished people in sub-Saharan Africa rose from 181 million in 2010 to almost 222 million, in 2016. This figure increased to 264.2 million, according to a study titled, “Malnutrition: An underlying health condition faced in sub Saharan Africa: Challenges and recommendations,” published in a medical journal, Annals of Medicine and Surgery, in October 2022.
Recently, Anne Patterson, the Director, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Mission, at the Trade Fair for Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Foods and Other Life-Saving Nutrition Commodities in Abuja, disclosed that Nigeria is ranked as the country with the second-highest malnutrition rate in the world.
This is according to the recent Food Consumption and Micronutrients Survey, she said.
In reality, Africa, with its abundant water body and aquatic lives and favourable climate (which supports the growth of various food crops including fruits and vegetables), have all that is necessary to produce the macro and micronutrients required to nourish the body for optimal growth and health.
For Nigeria in particular, which has agriculture written all over its national symbol (as the green on our National Flag signifies agriculture, and the black shield on the coat of arms symbolises fertile soil), the country should not be mal- or undernourished, even ranking second globally.
There are also about 200 species of fish, thanks to the large water body nature has blessed our country with. This, along with other aquatic lives can be harnessed for healthy foods. There is livestock of various types, giving quality nutrients too.
A lot is invested by the government in building a more resilient health systems, medical technologies, training of medical practitioners, and treating illnesses. It is time same energy and resources is invested in nutrition.
For example, during this year’s world malaria day, Nigeria still routinely spent an estimated sum of N2.04 trillion on malaria annually.
Breaking this figure further, Chairman of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), said, “the estimated cost for an individual to treat uncomplicated malaria in Nigeria ranges from approximately N700 to N3000, depending on the type of treatment, and the healthcare facility visited.
“While treating complicated malaria could be significantly higher, ranging from N20,000 to N60,000, or more”.
On the cost to the Nigerian government, the consultant pharmacist said: “This cost includes expenditures on healthcare facilities, medication, and personnel.”
Tackling the menace of investing heavily in treating illnesses and sicknesses affecting citizens would be to invest in its prevention. And that entails boosting the masses’ nutritional health by ensuring the availability of good and nutritious meals.
This will help in fortifying the immune system of Nigerians and combating all forms of malnutrition troubling citizens, especially Nigerian children from less privileged backgrounds.
Being a nation that also engages in massive agricultural cultivation of food and tearing of assorted livestock, the last thing citizens should have as a companion is hunger. Therefore, the federal government and other concerned authorities should worry about the global survey that ranked us as one of the world nations battling with the malnutrition crisis. It is a sad commentary.
Lawal Dahiru Mamman writes from Abuja and can be reached via [email protected]