Micronutrient deficiency (MND) affects about two billion people all over the world. The major micronutrient deficiencies which are of public health importance include vitamin A, iron and iodine deficiencies. The deficiencies of these micronutrients cause a variety of morbidities and increased mortality which are most severe in children, adolescent girls and pregnant women. Nigeria has an alarming prevalence of micronutrient deficiencies that has persisted over decades.
In Africa, Vitamin A deficiency alone is responsible for almost 6 percent of child deaths under the age of 5 years (https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/9789241501767). According to NNHS 2018 survey results, only 41 percent (comparable to 42 percent in 2015) of children aged between 6 to 59 months received vitamin A supplement. This means that nearly six in ten Nigerian children do not receive adequate levels of supplementation and are at risk of vitamin A deficiency. In fact, the World Bank Nutrition Country profile for Nigeria, reports that Nigeria loses 1.5 billion dollars in GDP annually to Micro-Nutrient Deficiencies (http://siteresources.worldbank.org/NUTRITION/Resources/281846-1271963823772/nigeria.pdf).
As part of measures to increase visibility of Micronutrient Deficiency Control (MNDC) issues in Nigeria and get the media to set it as an agenda in the policy space, CS-SUNN recently conducted a One-Day Media Roundtable on MNDC in Kaduna State. The roundtable brought together over twenty-five participants across broadcast and print media, Representatives from the Federal Ministry of Health, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), the State Nutrition Officer among others. It was aimed at establishing media role/responsibilities for increased visibility of MND interventions and increasing active participation of media in promoting Micro Nutrient Deficiency control interventions in Nigeria through their reportage.
CS-SUNN’s Executive Secretary, Beatrice Eluaka, while presenting a Press statement told journalists that the burden of malnutrition has remained a great source of concern particularly in developing countries, including Nigeria. She noted that adequate intake of micronutrients, particularly iron, vitamin A, iodine, zinc from conception to age 24 months is critical for child growth and mental development.
She further observed that the COVID-19 pandemic has had some implications for those most vulnerable to micronutrient deficiencies as well as the essential nutrition services that prevent the devastating effects of malnutrition.
“The COVID-19 pandemic may result in significant short- and long-term disruptions to food systems, increasing and complicating the global prevalence of all forms of malnutrition, including MND”, Eluaka said.
She, therefore, called on governments at all levels to evaluate various programmes addressing MND in the country to provide valuable insight on their progress and effectiveness as well as a roadmap on future priorities. “There is need to scale-up provision of basic package of nutrition services across Primary Health Care centres in Nigeria. Massive sensitization, education and awareness creation to provoke behavioural changes that will promote optimal Infant and Young Child feeding practices in communities in Kaduna State (like Early Initiation of breastfeeding, Exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life and adequate complementary feeding) are critical to combating the MND menace. Additionally, provision of routine services in Primary Health Care centers will promote distribution of Micronutrient powder, Iron/Folic Acid supplements and Zinc including Vitamin A supplementation to Pregnant Women and Children.
“We call on state governments, including the Kaduna state government, to scale-up, not only the provision and distribution of these supplements to hard- to- reach areas and across health facilities during the MNCH week, but also counselling to ensure compliance”. Eluaka said.
In a Presentation titled, the “Burden of Micronutrient Deficiency in Nigeria and the Government’s Response to the Scourge”, Deputy Director and Head, MNDC Unit, FMOH, John Uruakpa revealed that the public health significance of MND in Nigeria was severe. To him, more investment was required in the area of MNDC by Government and collaborating partners while the media creates awareness, sensitization and educates the public about the scourge.
In his words “There is the need for development and implementation of policies and programmes that favour procurement and availability of MNDC commodities such as vitamin A, iron/ folate, and micronutrient powders (MNP) used in the prevention of micronutrient deficiencies”
On his part, the representative of FMARD, Adanlawo Julius, who spoke on ‘Strategic Initiatives of the FMARD for Micronutrient Deficiency Control in Nigeria’ told journalists that, his ministry is working with local farmers to include these essential nutrients in farm produce so every household can have access to it. He reiterated the commitment of the FMARD to promote nutrition sensitive agriculture, support the implementation of the Home-Grown School Feeding and the conduct of National Food Consumption and micronutrient survey.
CS-SUNN remains committed in advancing Nigeria’s MNDC and food fortification agenda for improved nutritional status of women, children and vulnerable groups. The alliance had supported a stakeholder meeting to review the country’s existing MNDC guideline where a roadmap for review of the guideline was developed and commitment generated from partners to fund the roadmap.