Monday, October 28, 2019

African Nutrition

More than 237 million people are suffering from chronic under nutrition in Africa of which 32.6 million are in sub-Saharan Africa, says the FAO. With more people either over eating or not eating food with the necessary nutrients to be healthy and productive.
Sonja Vermeulen, Director of Programmes for the CGIAR System Organisation, told IPS that only four African countries; Benin, Namibia, Nigeria and South Africa so far are known to have national dietary guidelines.

“Most governments focus on quantity of food available (national breadbasket, maize, rice), not quality; and there is little pro-active sustained public policy work to raise nutritional standards, outside of aid programmes,” said Vermeulen. She lamented that despite studies showing that most diets of central African countries are among the healthiest in the world, many people in low-paid urban jobs are consuming poor quality, low diversity foods such fizzy drinks and white sweetened buns for lunch. 
Jan Low, Principal Scientist at the International Potato Center and 2016 World Food Prize Laureate, told IPS, “Most poor people still get over 60 percent of their calories from staple foods. Two ways in which the quality of the foods can be improved is through fortifying them by breeding in key micronutrients into the crops themselves (biofortification) and adding micronutrients to the staple when it is being transformed industrially (fortification).”
Derek Headey, a senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute, said poor diets, largely defined in terms of excess consumption of unhealthy foods (like red meat and foods rich in sugar, sodium or fat) as well under-consumption of protective foods (like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts), are now the leading risk factor in the global burden of disease. 
“That’s not yet true in Africa, but it is coming because consumption of unhealthy foods is rising rapidly in the continent, especially in urban areas,” Headey told IPS. “Obesity rates are already high in many West African countries, and are now rising rapidly elsewhere, even in places where incomes are still relatively low, like Tanzania. Part of that is related to reduced energy expenditure, but of course it is also driven by poor diets.”
Heady said the consequences of neglecting nutrition are dangerous because poor diets and obesity impose significant economic costs on healthcare systems and on the productivity of the workforce.
The Global Panel on agriculture and food systems for nutrition says malnutrition is costly to African economies, accounting for between 3 and 16 percent of GDP annually. Globally, the impact of malnutrition on the economy is estimated to be as high as $3, 5 billion a year or $500 per individual as a result of lost economic growth and lost investment in human capital, according to the Global Panel.
Reducing food loss and waste could positively impact on global food security and nutrition, said the U.N., arguing that reducing on farm losses can help farmer improve their diets through increased food availability and gain more income from selling part of their produce.
“Achieving Zero Hunger is not only about addressing hunger, but also nourishing people while nurturing the planet,” the FAO said.
World Food Prize Laureate Lawrence Haddad,  the Executive Director of Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), a Swiss-based foundation launched by the U.N. in 2002 to tackle malnutrition, explained, “Unlike many places, Africa can build new food systems, you do not have to try to reform entrenched food systems that are very difficult to change and have vested interests and that have been vesting for hundreds of years. It is not easy but there is a chance to build new food systems.”

No comments: