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Tackling Hanger: The Battle For Affordable And Balanced Nutrition

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Working together to support nutrition in Nigeria through fortified foods  and digital technology

Nutrition is a fundamental pillar of human life, from the stage of infancy through adolescence to adulthood. A balanced diet and good nutrition are essential for physical, mental, and physiological growth. It is a fundamental cornerstone for human and even national development.

 The scope of human nutrition is broad, it includes topics like biological and metabolic nutrition, whole-body and clinical nutrition, public health nutrition issues of national nutrition programs, and the global prevention, control, and eradication of malnutrition and nutritional disorders. Nutrition, a fundamental ingredient for survival, is also inadvertently a fundamental right for all members of our society. The right to life, a fundamental human right, would also encompass the right to proper nutritional well-being. 

Nutrition must be optimized by preventing infections and or by reducing their occurrence, duration, and severity. To guarantee that urgent interventions occur, everyone must access adequate healthcare services.

Moreover, a safe environment is also critical for nutritional well-being. Deforestation, Pollution,, and contamination of water and soil hinder the production of food and health safety worldwide. 90% of foodborne illnesses in developing nations, including typhoid, cholera, dysentery, and hepatitis A, are caused by microbial pollutants. Care, the last factor that affects Nutritional well-being entails individuals of all ages being in an environment where their basic needs are met. Examples include Proper Healthcare, Social Security, Employment opportunities, and human rights. 

Over 2 billion people worldwide have nutritional deficiencies in vitamins and minerals. These deficiencies are usually referred to as “hidden hunger” as people with these deficiencies may have a healthy outlook and may not be conscious of underlying dangers. However, the drawbacks of these deficiencies are patently devastating. For instance, Anemia although having multiple causes is also a consequence of nutritional deficiencies of iron, vitamin B12, and folic acid. It is estimated that nutritional deficiencies cause about 50% of anemic cases.

 Some responsible companies like Nestle Plc. have been involved in many activities to improve nutritional well-being worldwide. In 2021, Nestlé introduced a “Live Strong with Iron” Campaign in Nigeria to tackle Iron deficiency. According to the NDHS, 68 percent of children, six to 59 months of age, and 58 percent of women of reproductive age in Nigeria are anemic, mainly caused by iron deficiency. Iron deficiency can affect a child’s physical health and cause frequent intestinal and respiratory infections and during pregnancy, it increases the risk of premature birth. Given this, Nestlé Nigeria collaborated with other stakeholders, including the Federal Ministry of Health, the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Nutrition Society of Nigeria. The campaign aimed at assisting efforts to catalyze the accomplishment of Sustainable Development Goal 3, Good health and well-being, which aims at enhancing the health of the Nigerian masses. 

Besides, Nestlé has taken several steps to improve the affordability of its products, mainly in emerging countries. An example is Nestlé’s launch of Cerevita Instant Sour Porridge, an affordable, nutritious solution for Southeast African consumers. It is manufactured with wholegrain cereals and strengthened with essential micronutrients, usually unavailable in local consumer diets. The porridge has a higher protein and fiber content and is about 20-25% less costly than comparable products in local markets. The porridge was made with sustainable and locally sourced ingredients. Nestlé packaging experts also collaborated with local suppliers to manufacture sustainable, affordable and recyclable laminate packaging, which protects the product throughout its shelf-life.

Globally, nearly 2 billion adults are overweight, of which 672 million are obese. This is another challenge of nutritional in-balance. In this case, there is an over-consumption of cheap carbohydrates.

Consequently, the rate of obesity is increasing in many countries in the world. About 38 million children under the age of five years were overweight in 2017 worldwide, an increase of 8 million from 2000. Obesity and overweight increase the chance of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and some cancers. Also, individuals who are obese may experience social withdrawal, depression, and low self-esteem.

Malnutrition is one of the biggest challenges faced around the world. In its most basic form, it can be defined as a condition whereby an individual does not get the required amount of essential nutrients for their body to function properly. Malnutrition affects all age groups in multiple forms. It has several causes which include: an increase in the consumption rate of highly processed foods, restricted access to food, Poor water sanitation and limited access to essential health services, and unhealthy diets. A healthy diet is usually the primary solution to the problem of malnutrition. A healthy diet is a balanced diet that provides sufficient nutrients from safe foods that reduce the risk of diseases. 

Regular meals must contain vegetables, fruits, nuts, and whole grains (e.g. unprocessed maize, millet, oats, wheat, brown rice) and are low in fats(especially saturated fats), free sugars, and salt. These are facts that everyone, both young and old.

This is most probably why Nestle has additionally decided to promote nutrition education by organizing a quiz competition on nutrition for primary school pupils in some regions of the country. The quiz competition is aimed at testing children’s knowledge of Nutritional well-being and serves as a point of information dissemination to other stakeholders attending the events. This competition is in conjunction with Nestlé’s flagship initiative, “for Healthier Kids” (N4HK), which aims to help 50 million children globally to lead healthier lives by 2030.

With quality information, various nutrition challenges like undernutrition can be checked. Undernutrition is a health deficit caused by nutrient deficiency. Insufficient ingestion and poor absorption of food nutrients are the causes of undernutrition and have severe consequences on the health and development of children. One of the primary causes of infant mortality worldwide is undernutrition which is often caused by insufficient dairy consumption and dairy intake. It could also lead to stunting in children and poor cognitive development later in life. Overnutrition is essentially caused by excess accumulation of fat in the human body that may give rise to problems with health and reduced life expectancy. Overnutrition begins with being overweight and, if not adequately addressed, can advance to obesity. 

It is pertinent that people should have a right to affordable food solutions to have proper Nutritional well-being. Some of the solutions to allow for access to affordable food include: Supporting the sale of local foods in local communities by offering incentives and encouraging the establishment of farmers’ markets, Passing food policies that require food and beverages to meet specific nutrition standards, Requiring access to free and safe drinking water in public places, Ensure that residents can get food that is inexpensive and healthy through developing public transportation infrastructure.

Nutrition is a crucial building block both at an individual and National scale, as it affects a country’s economic, social and national progress. Thus, it must be treated with careful and deliberate planning. It has many challenges with solutions that need to be implemented to improve the standard of living of individuals worldwide. Nestle Plc. has shown competence in improving nutritional well-being worldwide, and its strategies can be reproduced for many local communities that still struggle with getting proper nutrition.

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