Nigeria loses 1.5 billion dollars in Gross Domestic Products (GDP) annually to Micro-Nutrient deficiency (MND), the World Bank, an international financial institution that provides loan to Nigeria and other developing countries, said.
This means that MND causes an increased financial burden on the healthcare system and an indirect loss of productivity, the report states.
A similar report by UNICEF has also declared malnutrition as the underlying cause of most under-five children’s death in the country.
In a reaction to this during a media round table in Lagos, the deputy director and head, Micronutrient Deficiencies Control, Federal Ministry of Health, Mr John Uruakpa, acknowledged that micronutrient deficiency is a severe public health issue in Nigeria.
However, he said the federal government had over the years made several efforts toward controlling MND through some strategies such as; food fortification, deworming, biofortification, dietary diversification and supplementation.
According to him, “The Nigerian government has inaugurated the National Micronutrient Advisory Committee (NMNAC) in 2005 to advise the ministry of health on issues relating to micronutrient in the country.
“Other interventions by the government are the establishment of National Fortification Alliance (NFA), a forum where government and private sectors meet to address issues relating to fortification; establishment of Universal Salt Iodisation (USI) task force; development of National Guidelines on Micronutrient Deficiency Control, and the development of food dietary diversification guideline.”
On the issue of iron deficiency which is one of the major deficiency highlighted, he explained that clean water and proper hygiene practise will prevent diseases and parasitic infections that can induce iron deficiency.
He pointed out that efforts are consistently ongoing in Nigeria to improve the availability/access to basic water and sanitation infrastructure that will support optimal WASH practices.
Despite these efforts by the government, The Civil Society – Scaling up Nutrition in Nigeria (CS-SUNN), feels that a lot more needs to be done to combat the scourge.
The group called on governments at all levels to scale-up basic nutrition services across all primary health centres nationwide.
The Executive Secretary, CS-SUNN, Beatrice Eluaka, explained that the issue of Micronutrient deficiencies (MND) has persisted over time in Nigeria.
“It is a major public health problem caused by a lack of essential vitamins and minerals like vitamin A, zinc, iron, iodine) in diets. Micro-nutrient Deficiencies, continue to contribute to morbidity and mortality among children by impairing immunity, impeding cognitive development and growth as well as reducing physical capacity and work performance in adulthood.
“Deficiencies in the aforementioned Micro-nutrient are also the leading causes of anaemia in women, birth defects, increased vulnerability to infections, blindness and poor development in children,” she said in her statement.
According to the group, “There is need for massive sensitization, education and awareness creation to provoke behavioural changes that will promote adequate Infant and Young Child feeding practices in Nigeria like Early Initiation of breastfeeding, exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life and adequate complementary feeding.
Additionally, provision of routine services in Primary Health Care centres will promote the distribution of Micro-nutrient powder, Iron/Folic Acid supplements and Zinc including Vitamin A supplementation for Pregnant Women and Children respectively.
“We call on state governments to scale-up not only the provision and distribution of these supplements to hard- to- reach areas and across health facilities during the MNCH week but also counselling to ensure compliance. We urge Nigerians to diversify their diet and to ensure adequate nutrition by consuming a wide range of foods, including vegetables, proteins and fruits to improve their nutritional status”.
CS-SUNN further urges state governments yet to approve their State-Specific Strategic plan of action for nutrition to do so and commence implementation.
“CS-SUNN had supported some State Committees on Food and Nutrition including the Lagos State Committee on Food and Nutrition to develop and cost their plans. Low funding for nutrition has been one of the major setbacks to the implementation of nutrition interventions.
“We again urge states without budget lines for nutrition to create such and ensure releases with specific funds allotted to interventions around micro-nutrient powder, biofortification, iron folate supplementation and Vitamin A supplementation among others.