By Ruth Tene Natsa, Abuja
The Global Panel’s policy brief “Improving nutrition through enhanced food environments” has revealed that food systems are failing to drive improvement in nutrition.
This is even as it revealed that two billion people have micronutrient deficiency, 200 million children are stunted or wasted and two billion people are overweight or obese (increasing non-communicable diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease) among others.
The report revealed that food environment is influenced by policies across the food system which determines the availability, accessibility, affordability, and desirability of foods to consumers.
It also added that changing food systems are reshaping food environments, noting that while the average per capita food supply worldwide increased from 2,200 to 2,800 calories/cap/day (from 1960 to 2009), malnutrition is growing in every country, rich and poor, there is also a spike in ultra-processed food products consumption and agricultural commodities are being processed on a long journey to retail markets.
Speaking on the failing food systems, director, Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems and Nutrition Prof. Sandy Thomas said an estimated 49 per cent of Nigerian reproductive age is anemic.
Presenting the Policy brief No.7 titled Improving Nutrition through Enhanced food environments funded by DFID and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, she said “there is no doubt that progress is being made in Nigeria, the stunting figures have come down considerably, but at the same time, there is still high level of stunting in the North east and North west”
“We also see that there is quite high level of anemia, another micro nutrient deficiency, estimated at 49 per cent of reproductive age is anemic. This is a big burden for them and again it comes down to having access and being able to afford healthy foods”
The director said “It is important to be positive in the sense that real efforts have been made to enable children to have food and that Nigeria should be proud of that progress.” She however said the challenges that remain now and in the future which are formidable, not just for Nigeria, but other middle income and low income countries, noting the challenges of climate change, rising population and urbanisation.
“We all know that Africa population will be much bigger by 2030/2050 and so all of these effects with the rising urbanisation, kind of food will change even more, it has changed a lot in the last ten years. So there are some really good things happening but there is still a great deal of work to be done especially in the rural areas” she said.
Thomas said the Global Panel decided to launch its new brief on the food environment because “we think the food environment is a very important area where nutrition can have a big impact.