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More Nigerian families join undernourished population amid rising food prices, conflicts – Punch Newspapers

Punch Newspapers
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    For many families in countries around the world, the global upsurge in the prices of food has been a cause of worry and given rise to uncomfortable changes in their dining rooms.
Food items that once were taken for granted since they were almost readily available, have now become luxury items- served only when it can be afforded but sparingly all the same -and in some families, some of these food items have disappeared from their menus and replaced with cheaper substitutes.
Meat, fish, and other more nutritious food sources have been replaced at several family dinner tables by cheaper food items, even though they do not necessarily provide the same nutritional benefits.
The Food and Agricultural Organisation in its monthly FAO Food Price Index report noted that food commodity prices in May 2021 rose at the fastest monthly rate in more than a decade.
The United States Department of Agriculture in a 2020 report stated that 10.5 per cent (13.8million) American households were unable to acquire enough food to meet the needs of all their members because they had insufficient money or other resources for food. This situation, they noted, affected about 584,000 children (0.8 per cent of the nation’s children), leading to malnourishment.
Nigeria is not left out of this global scourge of hunger and malnourishment as food prices have witnessed a surge in the country for many reasons. Some of these reasons include supply chain disruption occasioned by the pandemic; restrictions on foreign exchange to pay for imports including rice, wheat, and fertiliser; currency weakness; and violence in key agricultural areas, which is driving farmers off the land.
The FAO recently raised the alarm on food insecurity in the North-East region. It stated that insurgency had denied 65,800 farmers access to agricultural inputs in the area. This along with skirmishes in some other agricultural states in the country as well as levies imposed by bandits on farmers in northern states contribute to the rising prices of already scarce food items.


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The crises have in turn created a burden on many Nigerian households – since the food consumed in other states are largely produced in the North – they now have to go out of their way to balance the nutritional deficiencies imposed on them by scarce food items and ever-rising food prices.
In a survey carried out by Sunday PUNCH in many markets across the country, it was found that staple food commodities witnessed astronomical price increases.
Findings showed that within one year, the cost of 50kg of beans rose by about 253 per cent; a basket of tomatoes leapt by 123 per cent, while the price of 50kg of rice rose by 51.48 per cent. Also, the composite food index (a measure of food inflation) rose to 21.83 per cent in June, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.
The NBS in a 2020 report stated that in June of that year, about 30 per cent of households in the country experienced severe food insecurity owing to the lack of money or other resources as food inflation rose to as high as 15.18 per cent. An increase caused by a hike in prices of bread and cereals, potatoes, yam and other tubers, fruits, oils and fats, meat, fish and vegetables. But by August that same year, the figure had increased, as 68 per cent of Nigerian households suffered food insecurity.
On Wednesday, the NBS said that the composite food index rose by 20.30 per cent in August compared to 21.03 per cent recorded in July 2021. The report stated that the rise in food inflation in August was driven by increase in the prices of bread and cereals, milk, cheese and egg, oils and fats, potatoes, yam and other tuber, meat and coffee, tea and cocoa.
According to a 2019 report by UNICEF, in Nigeria, five in 10 children under five are malnourished while three in 10 children aged six to 23 live on poor diets. The report further stated that malnutrition remained a major public health and development concern in Nigeria, as 49 per cent of children below the age of five were not growing well.
Nutritionists decry rising nutritional deficiency

The Director, Nutrition Services and Health Education at the Osun State Primary Health Care Development Board, James Oloyede, stated that the rising prices of food items in the country were bound to have short and long-term effects on the populace.
He said, “For the immediate effects, there will be a rise in nutritional wasting, which is also known as severe acute malnutrition. Several children who were moderately malnourished will progress to severe malnourishment.
“If this is not addressed quickly, there will be an increase in childhood mortality in the country – a figure that already is high. There’s also the risk of stunting in growing children and malnourishment in adults as they do not meet their daily nutritional requirements.”
Oloyede noted that the rising cases of nutritional deficiency would in the long run increase morbidity, both in children and pregnant women being the most affected by the food crisis.

“The rise in food prices will drastically accentuate malnutrition especially among the vulnerable in the country. Also, pregnant women if they carry their pregnancies to term run the risk of having stillbirths, post-partum complications and worsened reproductive outcomes. Also, there will be decreased productivity in adults and children as well will have problems concentrating at school–causing poor educational outcomes.”
To stem this ugly trend, Oloyede advised that more Nigerians needed to engage in subsistence farming around their homes to augment their nutritional needs.
He added, “The government can also increase social protection for the populace so the average Nigerian can easily afford to purchase their basic nutritional needs without expending all their resources.’’


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The UNICEF in a 2020 report noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the pre-existing crisis of child malnutrition, threatening families’ livelihoods, disrupting the availability and affordability of nutritious and safe diets, and straining the delivery of essential nutrition services – with dire consequences for the most vulnerable children.
According to the United Nations Foundation, climate change and its attendant severe weather conditions; droughts, fires, pests, and diseases are the major factors threatening the production of food around the world.
A report titled, “ The state of food security and nutrition in the world, ’’prepared by some specialised agencies of the United Nations, stated that despite decades of global commitment towards ending hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition, these efforts have been undermined by climate variability and conflicts. The report further stated that in 2019, almost 690 million people (8.9 per cent) of the global population were undernourished, adding that the COVID-19 may likely add 83-132 million families to the ranks of this undernourished population.’’
In his comment, the National President, All Farmers Association of Nigeria, Kabir Ibrahim, stated that the rising state of insecurity in the country together with some other factors posed a serious threat to food production in Nigeria since some farmers could no longer go to their farms to plant or harvest crops.
 He said, “This is the period of harvesting but because of the insecurity in some parts of the country, farmers in these areas can’t go to their farms to harvest their crops. If they can’t harvest crops, it means food prices will go up as there’ll be scarce food items available. Climate change has also played a significant role in exacerbating the food crisis in the country. The recent flooding and drought in some parts of Nigeria have further made it impossible for the farmers in these affected areas to go to their farms. All these factors have worsened food price inflation in the country.”
On his part, the Assistant Chief Dietician, Ajeromi General Hospital, Dr Olusola Malomo, said the socio-economic status of a family determines the quality of food they consume.
He said, “Now that there’s an increase in prices of food, most middle income families now manoeuvre to meet their nutritional needs. They also make choices that are not safe. For example, in the case of tomatoes, you now see many families going to the market to purchase rotten tomatoes (popularly called esa) and these rotten tomatoes are high in mycotoxins which are carcinogenic. It could even predispose them to food poisoning.”

He noted that there was a recommended allowance of nutrition that children were required to take especially in the first 1000 days of life. He added that young children needed to be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of their life, stating that a mother who doesn’t eat adequately cannot provide her child with the necessary nutrition he or she should get from her.
Malomo stated, “For children and toddlers, because of an increase in food items, the food packs they take to school now contain meals that do not meet their iron, vitamin, protein and calcium needs. In some families, children have to compete for the meagre food available, depriving them of enough nutrients since the quantity of food the children consume may not meet the recommended allowance.
“For these children, if their bodies do not get enough nutrients, malnutrition, wasting and stunting can set in. Their cognitive abilities will also be affected as nutrition is linked to the activity of the brain.”
Malomo advised that to curb the menace, sensitisation and awareness of families must be sustained as there were food alternatives that were not expensive.
He said, “It is through awareness and adequate information that nutritionists and dieticians can advise people on what to eat. Home gardening is another way of improving food security in the family. Natural or artificial methods of gardening can help families grow vegetables that are rich in essential vitamins for growth and wellness, supplementing their nutritional requirements.”
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