Food processors, crop breeders and efforts to end malnutrition –

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HarvestPlus Nigeria demonstrates flour products from cassava vitamin A in Ibadan, Oyo, recently. PHOTOS: Femi Ibirogba

One in three children in Nigeria suffers from malnutrition, and about 45% of infant mortality is due to malnutrition throughout the world. FEMI IBIROGBA writes about the dual approaches to growing crops and food to solve this problem.

Bioconversion of crops and the inclusion of trace elements in processed foods have been identified as an effective strategy to reduce malnutrition, associated with high infant deaths and the burden of disease in Nigeria and Africa in general.

The World Health Organization (WHO) states that 52 million children under the age of five are wasted, 17 million are severely lost, and 155 million are retarded, and 41 million are overweight or obese due to malnutrition, which includes themselves inadequate vitamins and minerals.

The World Health Organization also says that about 45% of deaths among children under the age of five are related to malnutrition. This mainly occurs in the developing and poor countries of the world. At the same time in these same countries, the rates of child overweight and obesity are increasing.

The development, economic, social and medical effects of the global burden of malnutrition are serious and long-term for individuals and their families, for communities and for countries.

According to Technoserve, the business solutions company, Nigeria faces the greatest burden of malnutrition in Africa and is home to the world's second-largest population of malnourished children. The processed food summit, fixed by the organization, also recently reported that one of the three Nigerian children under the age of five is considered stunted; their bodies and brain are deprived of the basic nutrients that they need to fully develop and reach their potential. Almost half of all infant deaths in the country are due to malnutrition.

According to WHO, there are two main types of malnutrition, and the first and most important is protein-energy malnutrition (TEM) or lack of calories and protein. Food is converted into energy by people, and the energy contained in food is measured in calories. Protein is necessary for the key functions of the body, including the development and maintenance of muscles. Insufficient protein nutrition is a more lethal form of malnutrition / hunger and is the type of malnutrition that is referred to when hunger in the world is being discussed.

The second type of malnutrition, described by WHO, is "hidden hunger," which means a lack of essential microelements necessary for healthy mental and physical development.

Three of the very important microelements in terms of health effects in middle-income countries are iron, vitamin A and iodine.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) also argues that iron deficiency causes anemia, which is usually exacerbated by worm infections, malaria and other infectious diseases, such as HIV and tuberculosis. The health consequences are poor outcome of pregnancy, impairment of physical and cognitive development, increased risk of morbidity and mortality in children, and decreased productivity in adults. Anemia, she added, contributes to 20 percent of all maternal deaths.

Vitamin A deficiency can cause night blindness and reduce resistance to diseases, and can also worsen infant growth, according to FAO, and an estimated 250 million preschool children are vitamin A deficiency. It is estimated that between 250,000 and 500,000 children with Vitamin A deficiency becomes blind every year, half of them die within 12 months, losing sight.

FAO describes iodine deficiency as one of the main causes of cognitive development in children. About 38 million children are born with iodine deficiency worldwide, especially in Africa and Asia.

"The lack of iodine has a simple solution: iodized salt. Thanks to this intervention, the number of countries where iodine deficiency is a public health problem has declined by half over the past decade. However, in 54 countries there is still a serious problem of iodine deficiency, "it was informed.

Bio-enriched vitamin A. PHOTO: Femi Ibirogba

Insufficient nutrition associated with micronutrients
Trace elements are vitamins and minerals, and they allow the body to produce enzymes, hormones and other substances that are necessary for the proper growth and development of the child. Some of the most important micronutrients related to global health are again related to iodine, vitamin A and iron, and their inadequacy creates serious threats to health and development, especially in children and pregnant women.

However, efforts to reduce the number of affected children and women continue, and they revolve around enriching crops and food, but more needs to be done to bridge the gap and ultimately eradicate malnutrition-related dangers.

Strengthening of cultures
HarvestPlus promotes sweet potatoes with orange flesh from a vitamin A rich in Uganda and Mozambique, where vitamin deficiency is very high while it promotes enriched vitamin C in Nigeria, where it is estimated that more than 100 million people consume cassava-based foods. Potatoes and cassava are biologically fortified with beta-carotene, which is converted into Vitamin A by the body. Potatoes are widely used in Uganda and Mozambique, just as cassava is widely used in Nigeria, justifying the selection of these crops for targeted peoples in efforts to combat malnutrition.

Harvestplus is leading global efforts to improve nutrition and public health by promoting and spreading basic food crops rich in vitamins and minerals. It is part of the program of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) on Agriculture in Nutrition and Health. CGIAR is a global partnership in the field of agriculture for food safety.

Most farmers in developing countries feed on what they produce, pass in enriched processed foods, while urban and urban residents consume processed, but not necessarily balanced products. It is believed that two approaches to enriching crops and food will cover many factors in promoting healthy lifestyles and reducing the gap between malnutrition and balanced nutrition.

In addition to cassava, bio-fortified corn of vitamin A was developed in Nigeria, and farmers are encouraged to accept new varieties of corn to cover a wide range of classes of people. HarvestPlus believes that millions of Nigerians can eat vitamin A corn on the grounds that thousands of fresh corn are consumed daily by individuals and households, including vulnerable ones, either by boiling, roasting, or homemade corn-based cattle.

Bio-enriched beans have also been developed and accepted by farmers to expand the base of bio-strengthened crops and to reach an even wider range of Nigerians with the necessary trace elements until the gap between malnutrition and nutrition is completely shut down.

Strengthening food
For many years the country continued to process processed food fortification. Some products carry an eye mark, indicating that they are fortified with vitamin A, which is crucial for the healthy development of vision. And the rationale for this is that the natural sources of these micronutrients, such as fruits, vegetables, milk and others, are not usually included in the diet of most poor families.

Therefore, in order to revitalize the enrichment of more products, more than 40 food processing companies, led by the Dangote Group, Olam Grains and PZWilmar, supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Technoserve technical expertise gathered on July 26, 2018, to renew their commitment to improving the enrichment of food products, which is an important step towards resolving urgent nutritional problems in Nigeria.

What they called the Nigerian Food and Nutrition Forum, convened by Alo Dangote, President and CEO of Dangote Group, marked the beginning of a new, business-oriented effort to combat malnutrition in Nigeria, which seriously hampers health, productivity and economic growth.

According to processed food giants, food fortification is an inexpensive, simple solution that improves health and well-being. The addition of vitamins and minerals, including iron, iodine and vitamin A, to basic foods such as butter, flour, salt and sugar, has proven to be one of the most scalable tools to combat malnutrition. Strengthening iron, for example, helps prevent cognitive problems and brain damage, and can significantly reduce anemia that contributes to infants with low birth weight, maternal mortality, and decreased performance. The addition of vitamin A, for its part, reduces the risk of illness and death from infections in children and pregnant women.

The average cost of enrichment in developing countries is only 0.15 US dollars per person per year, an inexpensive but effective way to reach the majority of the population who regularly buy these staple foods.

Food processing companies said Nigeria was an early leader in food fortification on the continent, but progress stalled, saying that as Nigerian food processing companies reach about 80% of Nigerians with fortified foods, they have good opportunities for investment in the future the health of this country and the growth and help Nigeria regain its leadership role in strengthening.

By supporting the movement for strengthening food in the private sector, the federal government said it will consider the possibility of revising the tariff cut on imported trace elements for food additives. Minister of Industry, Trade and Investments Hajia Aisha Abubakar assured food processors that the government will consider reducing the tariff for imported trace elements and how its agencies will be effectively mobilized to ensure the goal of eradicating "hidden hunger" in the country. Achieved.

Participating agencies and partners Govt
It is expected that the National Agency for Food, Drug and Control (NAFDAC) will play an important role, preventing unsuitable products from reaching consumers, refusing to grant permits for such unsatisfactory products.

It is expected that the Nigerian Customs Service will also reduce and prevent further imports of contraband processed foods into the country. Dangot said that this is necessary to prevent further consumption of unhealthy contraband products across neighboring borders.

The organization of Nigerian standards (SON) is also included in the multifaceted battle against malnutrition. Sleep should reject any imported brand of food without being enriched with the necessary trace elements.

Women fry vitamin A harry. PHOTOS: Femi Ibirogba

Stakeholder optimism
Nigeria's Food and Nutrition Leaders Forum is part of the "Strengthening African Processors for Strengthening Foods" initiative (SAPFF), a four-year initiative partnership worth 10 million dollars. USA between TechnoServe and the consortium "Partners in the field of food solutions", financed by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. SAPFF works with 40 food companies in Nigeria to increase their ability to produce and sell fortified products for local markets, working to ensure that all people receive the nutrients they need to ensure a happy and productive life.

The forum said that the promotion of food enrichment will make Nigerian companies more competitive in the world market and will significantly improve the future, physical, social and economic well-being of Nigerians, reaching about 80% of Nigerians, while HarvestPlus Nigeria believes that about 20% for which was reached by processed foods, could be included in the network by biofeeding certain crops produced and eaten by 20%.

A medical doctor with an international organization based in Ibadan, Dr. Lera Olajade, urged state governments to promote the cultivation of bio-strengthened crops in rural areas by facilitating the sowing in these households through their cooperative farmers' societies. He expressed optimism that this approach would reduce the "hidden hunger" and improve the health of the rural population. According to him, the use of bio-strengthened crops, which they cultivate, is an effective way to achieve nutrition.

Ms. Bola Adeemo, farmer and processor of enriched vitamin C in Eruva, Oyo, said that cassava with manifests is represented in rural areas and has the potential to help reduce the burden of malnutrition in Nigeria. She was also optimistic that the enrichment of processed foods and available bio-fortified crops, if necessary, would solve the problem of malnutrition, especially in Africa.

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