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Rights group, physicians at World Health Day, decry poor nutrition


AS stakeholders mark 2015 World Health Day, a group has lamented the poor nutritional status of Nigerian children, even as they said 37 percent of Nigeria children are malnourished as a result, stunted in growth.

Civil Society Scaling-up Nutrition in Nigeria (CS-SUNN) with the Association of Public Health Physicians of Nigeria (APHPN) at a joint meeting yesterday in Abuja to mark the year’s event under the theme ‘Safe and Nutritious Food a panacea to Fighting Malnutrition and Diseases among Infants, Young, Children and Women of Reproductive Age’ agreed that “despite progress made in reducing malnutrition Nigerians especially women and children are still affected by many food related challenges, including vitamins and mineral deficiencies, obesity and non communicable disease.

“Even though nutrition in Nigeria has in recent years made progress in local food production, the poor nutritional status of Nigerian children has been a major concern to the coalition.

“37% of children under age five in Nigeria are classified as stunted, this rate is the highest in the sub-Saharan Africa and the second in the world.”

Chairman Association of Public Health Physicians of Nigeria FCT Branch Terfa Kene said the slogan for this years theme “From farm to plate; make food safe” is apt because “unsafe food containing harmful bacterial, viruses, parasites or chemical substances cause over 200 diseases ranging from diarrhea to cancers and the world health organization estimate that food and water borne diarrhea diseases kills an estimated 2 million people annually with 40% occurring to children”.

The group urged government to reduce the dire nutrition situation in Nigeria, build other strategic documents and also to improve food safety in Nigeria at all levels.

“Government through the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) has designed a plan through the 2014-2018 National Strategic Plan of Action on Nutrition (NSPAN) which is guided by the National Food and Nutrition Plan (NFNP), to reduce the number of under five children who are stunted by 20%.

“Government at all levels in Nigeria should improve food safety through public awareness campaigns and food consumes must ensure that the food on their plates are safe, ask questions, check labels and follow hygiene tips at all times,” they urged.

Similarly, Association of Public Health Physicians of Nigeria, Lagos Chapter in partnership with Sanofi Pasteur held in Ikeja, Lagos, titled “food safety” advised Nigerians to ensure that their food is properly protected and treated before consumption to avoid food poisoning and food-borne diseases.

President, Association of Public Health Physicians of Nigeria, Lagos chapter Dr. Oladoyin Odubanjo, said that food safety is very important because food safety is an area of public health action to protect consumers from the risks of food poising and foodborne disease, acute or chronic. Again food safety is a prerequisite for food security.

Odubanjo said: “it is very important that every organization should provide food safety for their worker because there are some organizations that do not care for the environment where they sell food. Nigerians should make sure that any food they should consume must have National Agency for Food and Drug Administration Control (NAFDAC) registration number to ensure free poising food. Labeling is also very important we should also make sure that food we consume must have labeling so, that we can be able to identify where the food is coming from. Pattern of cooking food is very important in eliminating contamination in our foods. Taken care of our environment where we cook our food government and NAFDAC need to come together to create awareness, educate people on what they should know to ensure food safety and avoid contamination in our food”.

Head of Business, Sanofi Pasteur, Mrs. Ovueferie Ohioze, said that food-borne and water-borne diarrhoeal disease kill an estimated two million people annually, including many children and malnutrition, threatening the nutritional status of the most vulnerable.

She noted that food can become contaminated at any point of production and distribution, and the primary responsibility lies with food producers. However, at large proportion of foodborne disease incidents are caused by foods improperly prepared or mishandled at home, in food service establishments or market. Not all food handlers and consumers understand the role they must play, such as adopting basic hygiene practices when buying, selling and preparing food to protect their health and that of the wider community.

Ohioze added: “Today, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), vaccines are available to protect against more than 26 infectious disease. Sanofi Pasture has a broad range of vaccines protecting against 20 infectious disease including foodborne and water diseases such as typhoid and cholera. Our vaccines against typhoid and cholera are WHO pre-qualified and are in use in several countries around the world”.

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