22 January 2013

Nigeria: Malnutrition Affects GDP, Productivity, Says Gain

The Country Director, Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), Mr. Larry Umunna, has called on both the public and private sectors to join the Scale Up Nutrition (SUN) movement to fight against malnutrition, which affects the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and productivity in the country.

He made the call at a recent multi-stakeholders' dialogue with theme: 'Securing the Commitment of the Private Sector in Scaling Up Nutrition in Nigeria', organised by the Lagos Business School (LBS) and GAIN in Lagos.

According to Umunna, "There is a dis-connect between wealth of Nigeria, and growth in the economy in the last 5-7 years and the poor indicator of poverty, hunger, poor health of the populace, where malnutrition plays contributory role." He said further, 'Nutrition is important to development, and the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said poor nutrition cuts GDP to 33 per cent per annum."

Umunna said the private sector should know there is link between nutrition and GDP and productivity, adding, "Even though there are challenges and problems in doing business in Nigeria, the private sector should take the opportunities. We, in the business community, should be worried about the mental health of our children."

The Country Director said outcome of the dialogue would chart the way for nutrition roadmap for the country, as nutrition is important to government and the private sector.

In her own remarks, the Dean, Lagos Business School, Dr. Enase Okonedo, said they are partnering GAIN to reduce malnutrition and improve the health of the nation.

She added "We cannot actualise economic growth and our potentials if we have unhealthy population, particularly women and children. We expect leadership from the public sector which should formulate policies that will help in collaboration with private sector to scale up nutrition. We have a shared responsibility to contribute to the health of the nation".

Okonedo said their role as a business school is to develop healthy managers. She lamented the two extremes of the problem of nutrition in the country, saying 10 -20 per cent highest income earners have obesity and other cardiovascular diseases, as a result of over nutrition, while the low income earners with greater population develop malnutrition.

She called on both public and private sectors to reduce global malnutrition through food fortification and other sustainable strategy. Adding, "Investments on rural health can yield 200 per cent return on investment. We should pay attention to rural areas and improve the health of the workforce."

The GAIN, a Swiss foundation with headquarters in Geneva, is an alliance driven by the vision of a world without malnutrition, created in 2002 at a Special session of the United Nations General Assembly on Children. It supports public-private partnerships to increase access to the missing nutrients in diets necessary for people, communities and economies to be stronger and healthier.

An estimated 400 million people most at risk of malnutrition are benefitting from sustained and affordable nutritionally enhanced food products in more than 25 countries. Half of the beneficiaries are women and children. About 12 Africans die every minute as a result of hunger and malnutrition. Since it began in 2003, GAIN has awarded grants to support large scale national food fortification and infant and young child nutrition programmes.

According to the statistics, 195 million children under age five in developing countries suffer from stunting (low height for age). Of these, more than 90 per cent are in Asia and Africa. While 130 million children under age five in developing countries are under-weight. One in four Africans is undernourished, 68 per cent of the 400 million people GAIN is reaching through its programmes are in Africa. There are 12 African countries including Nigeria in GAINS nutrition programme.

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