By Jim Rex-Lawson Moses
Nigeria, the most populous black nation in the world, referred to as the giant of Africa, also has the highest population in the continent put at about 220 million.
With her current overall life expectancy recently put at 52.2 years, by the National Population Commission, this may not be unconnected with the quality of health care systems and the inability of her citizens to access affordable and quality health care services, lack of proper education, poor income levels, health behaviors, poor nutrition and economic wellbeing. The resultant effect of the foregoing is an unhealthy population which unarguably will affect her GDP.
Most disturbing, is the nutritional deficiency in the country especially among children. According to the United Nations, UN, about 835, 500 children die annually from malnutrition induced ailments in Nigeria, with under 5 mortality rates in the country put at 127 per 1000 live births. Also, according to UNICEF, the first 1,000 days of life – the time spanning roughly between conception and one’s second birthday – is a unique period of opportunity when the foundations of optimum health, growth, and neurodevelopment across the lifespan are established. Yet, too frequently in developing countries like Nigeria, poverty and its attendant condition, malnutrition, weaken this foundation, leading to earlier mortality and significant morbidities such as poor health, and more insidiously, substantial loss of neurodevelopmental potential.
As a people, we have come from a history of “malnutrition” being synonymous with “undernutrition” also referred to as hidden hunger, resulting to reduced brain development, stunted growth, maternal and infant deaths, anemia, overweight or obesity, underweight, poor health and poor overall wellbeing.
While the nation is faced with the above scenario, her healthcare delivery systems have also been designed to fail as most citizens cannot access affordable quality healthcare because of their income levels. There is also the persistence of food and nutrition insecurity due to several factors including rapid urbanisation, high population growth, low agricultural productivity, restricted access to education, inadequate supply of basic amenities, poor hygiene and sanitation, limited access to portable water, and poor infant and young child feeding practices.
If Nigeria must meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all, addressing challenges we face, including hunger, good health and overall well-being, in order not to leave any behind by 2030, the present narrative must be changed through the sensitisation of the Nigerian citizen.
To achieve the foregoing, advancing nutrition, health, and wellness through the media cannot be overemphasized. The media as a veritable organ of the society that sets agenda for government, informs and educate the people must wake up to the realisation that her role towards addressing pressing nutrition, health and wellness issues in contemporary Nigeria, is germain to achieving a healthy and productive population.