Data presented by an International non-governmental organisation, TechnoServe, has shown that one out of three Nigerian children lack access to folic acid, vitamin A, and iron because of these, their bodies and brains are deprived of key nutrients.
It said, however Nigeria has recently made significant progress in fortifying its staple foods with micronutrients that are essential to achieving better health and nutrition.
“Vitamin A is one of the most critical nutrients kids need to grow up healthy—but too few kids receive a sufficient amount in their diet,” said Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
He said the world needs to fortify more foods with Vitamin A.
“The leaders in this meeting have already shown what’s possible for wheat flour, salt, and sugar. I hope that by the next time we meet, cooking oil will be added to the list, he said.
Worldwide, more than two billion people suffer from micronutrient malnutrition—deficiencies in essential vitamins and minerals that are integral to healthy growth and development.
The data presented at the 3rd Annual Nigeria Food Processing and Leadership Forum shows that access headed for vitamin A fortified sugar moved from 31 per cent of Nigerians to 96 per cent between 2017 and 2020.
The group said this means about 125 million Nigerians now have access to sugar fortified with vitamin A.
It also said an additional 73.5 million people now have access to wheat flour fortified with iron and folic acid, while 13.8 million have access to cooking oil fortified with vitamin A.
The data shows that to put the scale of these achievements in perspective, an additional 125.7 million Nigerians now have access to sugar fortified with vitamin A; an additional 73.5 million have access to wheat flour fortified with iron and folic acid; and an additional 13.8 million have access to cooking oil fortified with vitamin A.
The group said the progress was achieved following three years of leadership engagement by the federal government and CEOs of the nation’s largest food processing companies.
Fortifying staple foods—such as oil, flour, salt and sugar—with vitamins and minerals has been proven to be one of the most cost-effective and scalable tools to combat malnutrition and save lives.
One out of three Nigerian children under five years are stunted—their bodies and brains deprived of the key nutrients they need to fully develop to reach their full potential.
Over the long-term, stunting results in a 10 to 17 per cent loss of wages. When multiplied across the nation, it’s estimated that Nigeria loses more than US$1.5 billion in GDP annually as a result of diminished productivity and increased healthcare costs.
“If Nigeria is really serious about creating jobs, expanding its markets and growing its economy, nutrition and food systems should be put in the centre of the conversation,” Larry Umunna, West Africa Regional Director, TechnoServe said.
In his remarks, Chairman of the Aliko Group, Aliko Dangote, said the private sector remains the engine of growth for the Nigerian economy.
He said creating a set of compliance standards enhances the chances of delivering foods that will help people live healthier.