With more Nigerians falling into extreme poverty and finding it difficult to access nutritious food due to exorbitant cost of staple diets in the market, there is no doubt that malnutrition is lurking in the shadows.
As the purchasing power of food items continues to decrease, thereby denying Nigerians healthy life and decent livelihoods, it is visibly clear that Africa’s top oil producer may be on the brink of losing some of its burgeoning population to a decline in human capital and reduced productivity.
More importantly, the burden of malnutrition on workforce productivity as well as increasing risk of diet-related Non-Communicable Disease (NCD) such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes mellitus is huge and calls for urgent attention.
The prices of most foods that offer essential nutrients necessary to maintain good health have shot through the roof, threatening the realization of the second Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) which aims to end hunger, improve access to food and end all forms of malnutrition among others.
BusinessDay’s survey at Oba market, Lagos Street market in Oredo Local Government Area and Oregbeni Market in Ikpoba-Okha LGA of Edo State revealed that the prices of vegetables and fruits, including Onions, tomatoes, peppers, have skyrocketed.
It was observed that a bag of onion sells between N22,000 and N25,000 as against N12,000 sold some months ago while the price of a basket of tomatoes ranges from N35,000 to N40,000 as against N25,000 sold previously. Also, the price of a bag of pepper has increased from N9,000 to N18,000.
“Most of these food items are now scarce. Nowadays, we find it difficult to feed our kids. Nigeria’s situation is bad for everyone. The northerners are supported with farm inputs whereas we, in the south cannot access things like that”, Sekina Isah, a middle-age trader lamented.
James Uwaifo, a public health nutritionist, said the high cost of food is an added burden to people with diabetes mellitus and hypertension, who may find it difficult to get the recommended nutrients to meet their dietary needs.
Uwaifo, who is a lecturer at the department of human nutrition and dietetics, Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, said the present situation is “worrisome and we need to talk about it so that people will be conscious and find a way to overcome it.”
According to him, nutrition plays a vital role in the management of diabetes mellitus, and it requires a dietician to design their diet plan. The food that most of them eat falls within the ones that are now very costly in the market
“So, if the prices is depriving people from accessing it, of course it will also affect the nutrients in our meals and this will go ahead to lower the daily requirements of these nutrients and it will set up a state of poor nutrition or malnutrition. The nutrition community is concerned about the food price increase.
“Malnutrition in the sense that most of these nutrients will not be available in the recommended values, which will further lead to breakdown of tissues and lower resistance to illnesses and ultimately lead to prevalence of certain diseases. It will increase disease burden in the community.
“The relevance of these food items to Diabetes mellitus is that, they do not carry added calories, they offer to the body nutrients such as vitamins, micronutrients including calcium, phosphorus (these are nutrients important for the body to be able to synthesize enzymes, produce hormones, heal injuries). So, if they cannot produce them, digestion and energy generation will have issues and people will go down easily with illness and it will complicate Non-Communicable Disease.
He recommended that government should empower the people with information and skills to cultivate their own crops within their compound, noting that when the demand for these food items drops, the prices will also decrease.