The global nutrition crisis
Investment in nutrition, according to experts would prevent nearly half of child mortalities, boost the economy by 50 percent and increase school attendance.
For every dollar invested in reducing stunting among children, there is a return on investment of $16 dollars. Children are also likely to escape poverty by 33 percent in adulthood if adequate investment on nutrition is made.
Studies suggests that adequate nutrition, healthy and regular physical activity can increase feelings of well-being and decrease feelings of anxiety and depression, hence, poor diet, inadequate or excessive physical activity or a combination of these, can lead to serious health problems.
Nutrition experts said it is important to note that various nutritional situation gives rise to health consequences and outcomes.
These nutritional situations ranges from; optimum nutrition where there is food security for individuals with balanced, adequate and prudent diet and the health consequences for this situation is normal development and high quality of life.
The reverse is the case for under-nutrition which is associated with hunger; over-nutrition also linked to obesity, cardiovascular disease and malnutrition known to be associated with double burden of infectious diseases.
Poor nutrition is a direct cause of deficiency diseases such as scurvy and pellagra. Poor nutrition can have a more subtle effect on our health as it can contribute to the development of osteoporosis and the progression of some form of cancer.
In the United States of America, poor nutrition has been associated with three chronic diseases that are among the ten causes of death namely; heart diseases, stroke and diabetes.
In Nigeria, poor nutrition has been linked to child malnutrition and contributing to the death of children under five years.
According to a 2014 National Bureau of Statistics Survey, NBS, maternal nutrition, mother’s educational level as well as poor exclusive breast feeding habits put at 40 percent were major contributors to children’s nutritional status.
The NBS Survey also revealed that there was significant variation in number of live births by women who took Vitamin A, Iron, Iodine, and Zinc supplements, while uneducated women of 15 to 19 years were less likely than women in age 20 to 49 years to have taken iron supplements during pregnancy.
These micro nutrients derived from adequate dietary intake is responsible for the health, growth and development of children, while the lack of it is accountable for the death of more than three million children each year globally.
Child malnutrition is prevalent in six geo-political zones of the country, but experts say in Nigeria, children in the North Eastern States of Adamawa, Yobe and Borno are the worst hit.
According to latest data by United Nations Children's Fund, UNICEF, about 50 percent of children in 12 Northern States of Nigeria are stunted while only 20 percent of their age mates across the country have the same condition.
To address global crisis of poor nutrition as well as improving the skills of journalists in the area of nutrition reportage, Nestlé Nigeria in collaboration with Lagos Business School, Pan Atlantic University organised a four-day workshop entitled: "Advancing Nutrition, Health and Wellness through the Media" in Lagos recently.
Making her presentation, Dr. Ijeoma Nwagwu, Department of Strategy, Sustainability and Entrepreneurship, Lagos Business School sited a United Nations report of September 2018 on the state of food security and nutrition which says over 821 million individuals in 2017 are malnourished and 150 million children are stunted globally.
Nwagwu said, that a UNICEF report also states that, Nigeria has the second highest burden of malnutrition globally while 25 million under five children are wasted, stressing that the first 1000 days of life is key and adequate nutrition is needed.
To achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs, three which is 'Good Health and Well-being', Dr. Nwagwu said, there is need for strong media institution to drive better nutrition, health and well-being of people.
Worried on the global effect of poor nutrition, the President, Nutrition Society of Nigeria, Dr. Bartholomew Brai said every year, malnutrition costs the global economy millions of dollars in lost productivity and health care cost.
He said better nutrition means stronger immune system, less illness and better health.
A World Health Organisation, WHO, report says better nutrition is an entry point to ending poverty and a mile stone to achieving better quality of life.
The world body also in its 2018 report said, freedom from hunger and malnutrition is a basic human right and their alleviation is a fundamental prerequisite for Human and National development.
Dr. Brai who is also a lecturer at the Department of Biochemistry, Federal University Oye-Ekiti, Ekiti State, however raised concerns about food safety as a public health issues as incidence of food-borne diseases are reportedly increasing worldwide and posing potential risk to consumers than the nutritional aspect of the diet.
To create a robust strategy to address looming food crisis, a food production expert, Mr Ayodeji Balogun said there is need for robust strategies such as quality standards, education and financial incentives to address global crisis of poor health and economic loss.
Balogun, who is also the Regional Country Manager, West Africa, AFEX Commodities Exchange Limited, said "how and what we eat plays a major role in our health, culture as well as our happiness; but we rarely consider the tremendous economic impact of our food choice."
He added that Sub-optimal nutrition is the leading cause of poor health globally as nutrition is at the heart of many of the most important psychological, emotional and economic issues in our lives.
Balogun said that about 60 percent of the workforce came from agriculture, while almost five million people in the North-East were malnourished according to a 2018 Global Food Crisis report.
According to him, while agriculture is a good opportunity, there is also a huge gap in terms of access to food, nutrition and wellbeing.
He said "in 2018, 113 million people, across 53 countries in the world, experienced acute hunger, requiring urgent food, nutrition and livelihoods assistance.
"Over the next 20 years, chronic diseases are predicted to cause more than 30 billion dollars of cumulative economic losses worldwide, owing to excess healthcare spending, reduced productivity and loss of capital investments. A lot of these diseases are already attributable to lifestyle changes."
Sharing the Nestlé experience with the food market and Creating Shared Value, Mrs Victoria Uwadoka, Corporate Communication Affairs Manager said, Nestlé is creating shared value by enhancing the competitive position of its company while at the same time advancing the society in which it operates.
Though with challenges of high rejection rate at factory gate due to poor grain quality, Uwadoka said, Nestlé have been able to create social impact to its farmers as 30,000 farmers were trained on good farming practices, 18 small holder farmers grew to become Agri-Business Coaches and the farmer household income improved by 27 percent over 18 months.
Uwadoka said on the business impact, there has been improved grain quality, reduction in factory gate rejection as for instance, maize reduced from 15 percent to four percent in one year.