Third Nutritious Food Fair, Women have been identified as major players in addressing malnutrition in Nigeria and unless they are trained to make nutrition-sensitive decisions, malnutrition cannot be eradicated in the country.
The Country Manager of HarvestPlus Nigeria, Dr Paul Ilona, who disclosed this during the third edition of the Nutritious Food Fair (NFF) at the Michael Okpara Square, Enugu State, said tackling the challenges of malnutrition requires innovative approaches that are quick and smart to address emerging limitations.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), at least 53 per cent of deaths in women and children worldwide result from malnutrition. In Nigeria, the situation is even more alarming as records show that malnutrition kills 100 children and at least six women of childbearing age every hour. In many cases, they die not only because they lack food, but also essential micronutrients.
To draw attention to this problem, HarvestPlus Nigeria brings people together every year under the umbrella of the NFF, where it showcases agricultural solutions emphasising biofortified and nutritious foods. The event provides HarvestPlus and partners the opportunity to address people and further reveal how common crops like cassava, maize, and sweet potato now have the right amounts of micronutrients that helps forestall malnutrition and hidden hunger, a situation where the body cells do not get required micronutrients from food consumed.
The 2017 edition, themed “Scaling-up Nutritious Food Choices: Engaging Everyone Everywhere,” specially recognised the vital role women play as drivers of health in society. It therefore trained and commissioned over 3,000 women as “Smart Mothers”, an initiative that provides a platform for women as farmers, processors, and marketers of nutritious food products to lend their voices to nutrition. It is a civil society organisation operating at the community, local council, state and federal levels.
According to Ilona, when women are empowered, “we normally see improvement in children’s health, education, nutrition and welfare of family members. No smart mother will know the reason why children die and allow it. A smart mother will instead give her children the opportunity to grow to full capacity, and contribute to improving her environment. Through this initiative, we want to see mothers spend less money on drugs because their food is richer and their families healthier,” he said.
Ilona also applauded government policy on supplementation and food fortification, noting that the biofortification agenda of HarvestPlus complements the efforts of government and other development programmes.
“Having a multipronged approach in solving a single problem is the way to go, but we must ensure that all arms contribute optimally…the contribution of HarvestPlus makes it possible for common foods like cassava, maize, orange sweet potato to become the channel for delivering the daily nutritional needs of people,” he said.
The wife of the Speaker, Enugu State House of Assembly, Princess Akunna Ubosi, who launched the initiative, alongside wives of other Assembly members, expressed confidence that the initiative would further help to alleviate poverty in the state, adding that by feeding the family right, women could help promote good health and avert prevalent and terminal illnesses in the country.
The Special Adviser to Enugu State Governor on Small and Medium Enterprises and Investments Promotion, Anayo Agu, said the fair would help ordinary people do extraordinary things. He commended all partners with which HarvestPlus works to advance the cause of eradicating global hidden hunger.