More Nigerian families join the undernourished population amid rising food prices and conflict
… daily nutritional needs now difficult to meet, experts deplore
For many families in countries around the world, the global spike in food prices has been a source of concern and has resulted in uncomfortable changes in their dining rooms.
Food items that were once taken for granted as they were almost readily available have now become luxury items – served only when one can afford it, but sparingly all the same – and in some families some of these food products have disappeared from their menus and replaced by cheaper substitutes.
Meat, fish, and other more nutritious food sources have been replaced at many family tables with cheaper foods, although they don’t necessarily offer the same nutritional benefits.
The Food and Agriculture Organization, in its monthly FAO Food Price Index report, noted that food prices in May 2021 increased at the fastest monthly rate in more than ‘a decade.
The United States Department of Agriculture in a 2020 report said 10.5% (13.8 million) of American households were unable to acquire enough food to meet the needs of all of their members because they did not have enough money or other resources to feed themselves. This situation, they noted, affected around 584,000 children (0.8% of the country’s children), resulting in malnutrition.
Nigeria is no slouch in this global scourge of hunger and malnutrition, as food prices have skyrocketed in the country for many reasons. Some of these reasons include the disruption of the supply chain caused by the pandemic; restrictions on foreign exchange to pay for imports, including rice, wheat and fertilizers; weakness of the currency; and violence in key agricultural areas, which pushes farmers off their land.
FAO recently sounded the alarm on food insecurity in the North East region. He said the insurgency had denied 65,800 farmers access to agricultural inputs in the region. This, along with skirmishes in some other agricultural states across the country as well as levies imposed by bandits on farmers in northern states, are contributing to the rise in prices of already scarce food items.
The crises in turn have created a burden for many Nigerian households – given that the food consumed in other states is largely produced in the North – they now must do everything possible to make up for the nutritional deficiencies imposed on them. the scarcity of food and never. – rising food prices.
In a survey conducted by Sunday PUNCH in many markets across the country, it has been found that basic food items have seen astronomical price increases.
The results showed that in one year, the cost of 50 kg of beans increased by about 253 percent; a basket of tomatoes jumped 123 percent, while the price of 50 kg of rice rose 51.48 percent. In addition, the composite food index (a measure of food inflation) reached 21.83 percent in June, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.
The NBS in a 2020 report said that in June of this year, around 30% of the country’s households experienced severe food insecurity due to lack of money or other resources as food inflation reached 15.18%. An increase caused by rising prices for bread and cereals, potatoes, yams and other tubers, fruits, oils and fats, meat, fish and vegetables. But by August of the same year, the figure had risen, as 68 percent of Nigerian households were food insecure.
On Wednesday, the SNB said the composite food index rose 20.30% in August, from 21.03% recorded in July 2021. The report says the rise in food inflation in August is due to rising prices for bread and cereals. , milk, cheese and egg, oils and fats, potatoes, yams and other tubers, meat and coffee, tea and cocoa.
According to a 2019 UNICEF report, in Nigeria five in ten children under the age of five suffer from malnutrition while three in ten children aged 6 to 23 live with unhealthy nutrition. The report further stated that malnutrition remained a major public health and development problem in Nigeria, as 49% of children under five were not growing well.
Nutritionists denounce the increase in nutritional deficiencies
Osun State Primary Health Care Development Council Director of Nutrition and Health Education Services James Oloyede said rising food prices in the country would have short-term and long term on the population.
He said: “For the immediate effects, there will be an increase in nutritional waste, also known as severe acute malnutrition. Many children who suffered from moderate malnutrition will progress to severe malnutrition.
“If this is not resolved quickly, there will be an increase in child mortality in the country – an already high figure. There is also a risk of stunting in growing children and malnutrition in adults because they do not meet their daily nutritional needs.
Oloyede noted that the increase in cases of nutritional deficiency would increase long-term morbidity, both in children and pregnant women being the most affected by the food crisis.
“Rising food prices will dramatically increase malnutrition, especially among vulnerable people in the country. In addition, pregnant women who carry their pregnancies to term are at risk of stillbirths, postpartum complications and worsening reproductive outcomes. In addition, there will be a decrease in productivity in adults and children will also have problems concentrating in school, which will lead to poor academic performance.
To stem this ugly trend, Oloyede said more Nigerians need to engage in subsistence farming around their homes to increase their nutritional needs.
He added, “The government can also increase the social protection of the population so that the average Nigerian can easily afford to purchase their basic nutritional needs without spending all their resources.
UNICEF in a 2020 report noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the pre-existing crisis of child malnutrition, threatening the livelihoods of families, disrupting the availability and affordability of nutritious and safe diets, and putting straining the provision of essential nutrition services – with disastrous consequences for the most vulnerable children.
According to the United Nations Foundation, climate change and the extreme weather conditions that accompany it; droughts, fires, pests and diseases are the main factors threatening food production in the world.
A report titled “The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World,” prepared by some specialized United Nations agencies, said that despite decades of global commitment to end hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition, these efforts have been undermined by climate variability and conflict. The report further states that in 2019, nearly 690 million people (8.9%) of the world’s population were undernourished, adding that COVID-19 could likely add 83 to 132 million families to the ranks of this. undernourished population. ”
In his commentary, the national president of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria, Kabir Ibrahim, said that growing insecurity in the country along with other factors poses a serious threat to food production in Nigeria as some farmers do not could no longer go to their farms to plant or harvest crops.
He said, “It is harvest time, but due to insecurity in some parts of the country, farmers in those areas cannot go to their farms to harvest their crops. If they cannot harvest the crops, it means that food prices will rise as there will be scarce food items available. Climate change has also played an important role in worsening the food crisis in the country. Recent floods and droughts in parts of Nigeria have made it impossible for farmers in these affected areas to get to their farms. All of these factors have exacerbated the food price inflation in the country.
For his part, the Deputy Chief Dietitian of Ajeromi General Hospital, Dr Olusola Malomo, said that a family’s socio-economic status determines the quality of the food it consumes.
He said, “Now that there is an increase in food prices, most middle-income families are now maneuvering to meet their nutritional needs. They also make choices that are not safe. For example, in the case of tomatoes, you now see many families going to the market to buy rotten tomatoes (commonly known as esa) and these rotten tomatoes are high in mycotoxins which are carcinogenic. It could even predispose them to food poisoning.
He noted that there was a recommended dose of nutrition that children were required to take, especially in the first 1,000 days of life. He added that young children should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life, saying that a mother who does not eat enough cannot provide her child with the necessary nutrition he or she should be getting from. ‘she.
Malomo said: “For children and toddlers, due to an increase in food items, the food packages they bring to school now contain meals that do not meet their needs for iron, vitamins. , protein and calcium. In some families, children have to compete for the meager food available, depriving them of enough nutrients because the amount of food consumed by children may not reach the recommended allowance.
“For these children, if their bodies do not receive enough nutrients, malnutrition, wasting and stunted growth can set in. Their cognitive abilities will also be affected because nutrition is linked to brain activity.”
Malomo indicated that to reduce the threat, sensitization and awareness of families must be supported as there are food alternatives which are not expensive.
He said: “It is through awareness and adequate information that nutritionists and dietitians can advise people on what to eat. Home gardening is another way to improve family food security. Natural or artificial gardening methods can help families grow vegetables rich in vitamins essential for growth and well-being, by supplementing their nutritional needs.
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