Nigeria has made significant progress in fortifying its staple foods with micronutrients that are essential to achieving better health and nutrition, an international non-governmental organisation, TechnoServe, said on Thursday.
Data presented by the organisation at the 3rd Annual Nigeria Food Processing and Leadership Forum shows that access to 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.
“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 data shows.
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.
“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.
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.
“By creating a common set of compliance standards, while also giving companies the tools they need to effectively fortify their foods, we are creating a sustainable path to delivering Nigerians food that will help them live healthier, more productive lives. Better nutrition for our consumers means better health and economic development for our nation.”
The Minister of Industry, Trade & Investment, Adeniyi Adebayo, said despite the impacts of COVID-19 on the world’s economy, the leadership of food companies strived to provide healthy foods.
He said industry leaders have shown that even during an international public health crisis and an economic crisis, good nutrition can be delivered for all citizens.