The Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) has said that thousands of people in the country lack access to nutritious food because they are unaware of the government’s intervention programme on nutrition.
Director, micronutrient deficiency control, FMOH, Mr. John Urakpa, said this on Monday in Abuja, during a media parley to commemorate the 2022 World Food Day.
The parley was organised by the Civil Society Scaling up Nutrition in Nigeria (CS-SUNN), in collaboration with Food Basket Foundation International (FBFI).
The World Food Day is an annual observance to highlight the precarious situation of millions around the world who cannot afford a healthy meal and the importance of regular access to nutritious food.
Also, it commemorates the founding, in 1945, of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO).
The theme of this year’s celebration is “Leaving no one Behind”.
Urakpa said that the government has put several programmes and policies in place to address the issue of child malnutrition.
“Hunger has no boundaries. You feel it and I feel it. I know the government is doing a lot, like the Social Investment Programme, School Feeding Programme and the [availability of the] ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF) but only a few are aware of these interventions in the country,” he said.
A representative of the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs, Mrs. Christiana Oliko, said that gender relations play an important role in food security and nutrition management of the country.
Oliko stated that by addressing gender inequality there would be larger improvements in food security in the household, community and the country.
A representative of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), Mr. Adanlawo Julius said that better outcomes would be recorded from these interventions if the media is well informed about the roles of food in ensuring good nutrition.
He said that the FMARD has the mandate to ensure food and nutrition security in crops, livestock and fisheries, stimulating agricultural employment and services.
“The new policy document, National Agricultural Technology and Innovative Policy will drive the mandate along value chains,” he explained.
A representative of FHI 360’s Alive & Thrive project, Dr. James Oloyede, expressed his belief that a system approach would ensure better nutrition outcomes, especially for women, infants, young children and adolescents as the core of the project currently being implemented in seven states of the Federation.
Oloyede said that if Nigerians were empowered to demand nutritious foods, it means nutritious and safe foods were available, affordable and sustainable as well as healthy food environments.
“It has been demonstrated that when nutritious food options are affordable, convenient and desirable, Nigerians would make better food choices,” he said.
The CEO, FBFI, Dr Funmi Akindele called on the government, private sector, academia and CSOs to work together to prioritise the right of all Nigerians to food, nutrition peace and equality.
Akindele said every Nigerian, including youths, can work towards an inclusive and sustainable future, showing greater empathy and kindness in the country’s actions for the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO).
Chairman, CS-SUNN, Mr. Innocent Ifedilichukwu called on the government to prioritise the food and nutrition needs of the poorest and most vulnerable households in the country by expanding and improving emergency food assistance and social protection programmes.
Ifedilichukwu urged the government to fund and implement the National Multisectoral Plan of Action for Nutrition to guarantee optimal nutritional status for Nigerians by accelerating the scaling up of priority high-impact, nutrition-specific.
He reasoned that the most vulnerable, especially women, children and internally displaced persons should be the focus of nutrition-sensitive interventions.
“Prioritise Nigeria’s food fortification agenda and ensure an improved integration of fortification regulatory monitoring into the overall food inspection system.
“This will go a long way in tackling the challenge of ‘hidden hunger’ and micronutrient deficiencies in Nigeria,” he explained.
He said it is important to promote climate-smart and environmentally-friendly agricultural practices to preserve the earth’s natural resources, health and climate while also slowing the habitat destruction that contributes to disease outbreaks.
Science Nigeria reports that in the face of a looming global food crisis, several farmlands have been left uncultivated, crops unharvested and unattended, no thanks to insurgency and conflicts in the country.
According to experts, the agriculture sector is faced with unprecedented skirmishes and food insecurity more glaring.
Most agriculture interventions are not value-addition inclined and the school feeding programme has turned out to be a façade, coupled with the fact that change in climatic conditions has had its toll on farmers who are majorly rural dwellers.
Soaring prices of food have made it unaffordable for the majority of the populace and high inflation facing the economy has made the situation worrisome.