The Nigerian Government has been urged to develop a viable and sustainable nutrition policy to forestall against a major health crisis in the country.
Making the call on Thursday in the face of rising food insecurity in the country following attacks on farmers in many parts of Nigeria especially in the Northern region by Boko Haram terrorists and armed bandits, nutritionist and weight-loss expert, Azeezat Oluwakemi Sule, said it was important for the government to implement an acceptable nutrition policy to save lives and improve the environment.
Pushing for a review of the country’s education policy, syllabus and curriculum to accommodate the study of nutrition as a critical subject matter right from pre-school to tertiary institutions, Sule said that such a move would help improve public understanding of the importance of good food in the health of individuals in the society.
She said, “Such policies will support issues that have been seen to spur the consumption of some foods over another, such as giving economic incentives like a reduced tax on healthy foods and increased tax on junk foods and sodas.
“Marketing limits can also be placed on some foods as most foods being advertised now are the multi processed foods and sugar. Other policies to limit food marketing to children include curbing advertising and marketing of less healthful foods and beverages in schools and removing toys in children’s fast-food meals, encouraging exercises and healthy eating.
“Policies will also encourage community spaces marked for food events like food demonstration and cooking classes, competitions, etc.
“Having said this, there is a need for the Nigerian government to ensure healthy eating among the people and there are many ways to look at it bearing in mind that the rural areas are different from the urban.”
On the review of the education policy, she said, “There should be a review of our education policy, syllabus and curriculum to incorporate nutrition in an informative and practical way right from pre-school to the tertiary institutions. Every Nigerian that passes through the education system should be already aware of the importance of food and good nutrition/healthy eating, and we can as well produce more graduates in this niche.
“Food education can also include affordable food demonstration and preparation classes at various locations such as trade schools, technical schools, health facilities, places of worship and community centres. This will make it easy for people to access full services that will help them kick-start their journeys.
“In developed countries, food banks are a way the government supports their people with food supplies on a routine basis after the individual or families have met the criteria to receive such foods. Having food banks where only healthy foods are being distributed will be a great way to keep people away from hunger and also keep them healthy.
“Also, when the government is supporting such, the people see it that those foods are the best to eat and when they can afford, they do not buy anything other than these groups of food.”
Poor diet has remained a significant problem in Nigeria over the years, where an estimated two million children suffer from severe acute malnutrition, according to UNICEF.
The country has the second-highest burden of stunted children in the world, with a national prevalence rate of 32 per cent of children under five, the global organisation said.
With food insecurity becoming a major threat in Nigeria by the day, experts have called on the government to tackle the situation to save lives.