BusinessDay

Nutrition: Can Nigeria achieve any of the Sustainable Development Goals?

Nutrition is a crucial component of many other Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including the SDG 2′ end hunger, achieve food security and enhanced nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.’

Education, decent work, and economic growth (SDGs 4 and 8) have also been linked to better diet quality.

The former United Nations secretary-general, Ban Ki-Moon, in a message for the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement Strategy and Roadmap (2016-2020), said that “nutrition is both a maker and a marker of development. Improved nutrition is the platform for progress in health, education, employment, empowerment of women, and poverty and inequality reduction. It can lay the foundation for peaceful, secure and stable societies.”

Thus, it is worth noting that attaining multiple SDGs is critical for fulfilling the nutrition target. Nutrition examines food nutrients, how the body processes them, and the relationship between health, nutrition, and diseases. A nutritious and healthy diet is vital for optimal health.

A nutritious diet promotes optimal growth and development in children. It lowers their risk of chronic diseases. Adults who consume a healthy diet live longer and are less likely to develop obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, or cancer.

Thus, healthy nutrition can aid in managing chronic diseases and preventing consequences as it guards against heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, among other chronic non-communicable diseases.

Dietary habits are the decisions made by individuals or groups of people about what foods to eat regularly. These include vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, which a person must consume as a balanced diet. A healthy diet requires a diversity of foods and a reduction in sodium, carbohydrates, saturated, and industrially generated trans-fats. Thus, dietary habits and decisions influence human health.

Food is the cause of most non-communicable diseases, and food can assist in the cure of these diseases. Food provides our bodies with the fuel they require to function correctly. The metabolic systems can suffer, and a person’s health can deteriorate if he does not receive the correct information through the food eaten. Thus, good nutrition based on appropriate eating habits is crucial for staying healthy, active, and living a longer life.

Of the basic human needs, food is fundamental and crucial to human existence. The choice of food by an individual is influenced by some elements which characterise the individual, such as knowledge, personal taste preferences, emotion, hunger level, health status, specific diet requirements, ethnicity, and personal income.

Most Nigerians find it hard to have healthy balanced three square meals as the price of food has risen sporadically in recent times. Between April 2021 and March 2022, food inflation in Nigeria grew by 15 percent, putting upward pressure on the cost of living for workers whose earnings have not increased in recent times.

The disturbing reality is that the N30,000 ($72) minimum wage is insufficient to cover the cost of basic supplies for a month’s healthy living for an adult, let alone a family. And when healthy options are few, consumers may opt for items greater in calories but poorer in nutritional value.

Nigeria, the most populous country and the giant of Africa, with a population of over 216 million people and a GDP of over N45 trillion as of the third quarter of 2021; may be unlikely to achieve any of the sustainable development goals even though it is the continent’s largest economy.

With the population rising at a 2.5 percent annual rate due to early childbearing and a high fertility rate of 5.4 children per woman exacerbating the population density, more than 4 million people go hungry or are malnourished.

Read also: Seven years after, Nigeria fails to end malnutrition

In 2018, 37 percent of adolescent girls started having children by the age of 19, similar to 2008, when 38 percent of teenage girls began having children by 19 years. This has significant repercussions because, compared to older mothers, adolescent girls are more likely to be malnourished and give birth to a low-birth-weight baby.

The newborn is more likely to grow malnourished and be at higher risk of disease and death. The World Health Organization (WHO) data published in 2018 shows that low birth weight accounted for 89,291 deaths in Nigeria.

The report shows that 2 million children suffer from severe acute malnutrition (SAM), of which only two out of every ten children receive treatment. Also, Nigeria has the world’s second-largest burden of stunted children, with a countrywide prevalence rate of 37 percent of children under the age of five.

The percentage of stunting prevalence increases with age, as 47 percent of children between 24-35 months are stunted.

According to the latest WHO data published in 2018, malnutrition deaths in Nigeria reached 45,836 or 2.36 percent of total death. Infant mortality in Nigeria in 2021 was 57.70 deaths per 1000 live birth, while in 2022 infant mortality rate was 56.22 deaths per 1000 live births.

Busayo Aderounmu is an economist and researcher.

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