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WFD: Eradicating hunger and malnutrition in Nigeria

October 16 is World Food Day and is observed by over 150 countries as well as Nigeria and is aimed at promoting worldwide awareness, action on the need to address hunger, ensure food security and nutritious diets for all, Our Correspondent EBI IMISI was at the Media Parley hosted by CS-SUNN and Food Basket Foundation.

‘‘Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” is a famous quote by Hippocrates, the father of medicine. This quote, though thousands of years old, acknowledges the importance of healthy eating and how the nutrients in various foods have healing properties. A healthy lifestyle with good nutrition is vital for maintaining good health and disease prevention.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, FA0, 2022, 3.1 billion people, i.e. almost 40 percent of the world’s population, cannot afford a healthy diet, putting them at high risk of food insecurity and malnutrition. FAO adds that in 2021, 193 million people experienced high acute food insecurity, requiring humanitarian assistance for their survival, while over half a million people faced catastrophic conditions, leading to starvation and death.

Against this backdrop, Civil Society-Scaling Up Nutrition in Nigeria, in collaboration with Food Basket Foundation International celebrated the 2022 World Food Day through a media parley with the aim of increasing public awareness of the problem of hunger and malnutrition in Nigeria, create awareness on food safety for better production, better nutrition, a better environment, better life and a healthy tomorrow as well as strengthen National solidarity towards ending hunger and malnutrition through collaborative efforts with the Media.

Our society today is confronted with variegated social challenges, including banditry, kidnapping for ransom, hydra-headed corruption that has hindered adequate food production, hence the CS-SUNN stakeholders, media parley is apt as it provided a platform for all relevant bodies to brainstorm on how to eradicated hunger and malnutrition in Nigeria.

Speaking during the parley, Chairman, CS-SUNN Ekene Innocent Ifedilichukwu and Chief Executive Officer Funmi Akinyele, Food Basket Foundation International noted that it is important to state that in recent times, though some significant progress has been made in improving agricultural productivity and ensuring nutrition security, food systems are out of balance.

According to the duo, Challenges such as increase in food prices due to bottlenecks in supply chains, soaring transport costs, other disruptions caused by the COVID- 19 pandemic, conflicts in a number of regions worldwide including the war in Ukraine, and the growing frequency and intensity of climate extremes are only some of the issues that underline this imbalance.

Lamenting on lack of access and availability of nutritious food to the extreme poor people, the group stated that Farmers struggle to offset this year’s higher input costs by planting less, switching to crops that require fewer nutrients or scaling back their fertilizer use, which potentially hurt yields.

This they said the country stands the risk of shrinking production as farmers have fewer financial resources to compensate for rising input prices, which are growing at a faster rate than the prices for their produce.

Also, Agrifood systems transformation is critical and if Nigeria wants to honor the pledge to leave no one behind and deliver better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life for all.

CS-SUNN and FBFI however urged government at all levels to prioritize the food and nutrition needs of the poorest and most vulnerable households in Nigeria by expanding and improving emergency food assistance and social protection programmes.

To fund and implement the National Multisectoral Plan of Action for Nutrition to guarantee optimal nutritional status for Nigerians through accelerating the scaling up of priority high impact nutrition specific and nutrition sensitive interventions with focus on the most vulnerable, especially women, children and internally displaced persons.

Also, to prioritize Nigeria’s Food fortification agenda and ensure an improved integration of fortification regulatory monitoring into overall food inspection system as this will go a long way in tackling the challenge of “hidden hunger” and micronutrient deficiencies in Nigeria.

Furthermore, promote climate-smart and environmentally friendly agricultural practices to preserve the Earth’s natural resources, health, and the climate while also slowing the habitat destruction that contributes to disease outbreaks.

However, CS-SUNN and FBFI urge the private sector to respect national food safety regulations and measures to protect food and reinforce good hygienic and food safety practices along the food chains, especially in rural areas.

‘‘We call on them to support and promote small and medium scale enterprises, SMEs to keep their businesses and to even consider extending loans where needed to help smaller enterprises stay in business. Private sector should continue to invest in sustainable resilient food systems and ensure favorable working conditions that will promote the practice of exclusive breastfeeding- establishment of creches in work places and the adoption of 6 months maternity leave to enable nursing mothers breastfeed their infants exclusively’’.

While the media was encouraged to continue to shine the spotlight on the problem of hunger and malnutrition in Nigeria.

After all has been said, to tackle malnourishment, Nigerians should choose to eat diverse and healthy diets since this will encourage the production of a variety of food.

The theme of the 2022 World Food Day is “Leave No One Behind: Better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life”.

Also in attendance was the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Muhammad Mammood Abubakar Represented by and the Head of Nutrition and Food Safety Department of the Ministry.

Dr. Oyeleke Rasaq Oyinloye, Deptuty Director, Federal Ministry Of Agriculture & Rural Development, who spoke on ‘‘Burden of Hunger and Food Insecurity in Nigeria’’ and also a presentation on ‘‘Strengthening Multisectoral Efforts towards ending Hunger and Malnutrition in Nigeria’’.

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