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Author Topic: Global food crisis increases infections, diseases  (Read 2211 times)
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Francis Umeoguaju
Expert in Bioscience Issues
Posts: 657

« on: September 27, 2010, 09:55:28 am »

Ensuring food security is currently one of the greatest challenges facing the world community because food prices continue to soar in many countries. This challenge is most critical in low-income and food-deficit African countries of which Nigeria is one.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), lack of access to food influences food intake, consequently impacting the health and nutritional status of  affected individuals. Of the world’s undernourished children, 80 per cent live in 20 countries, nine of these are in sub-Saharan Africa. About 200 million Africans are hungry and malnourished, including 31 million under the age of five. About 35 per cent of under-five mortality is attributed to under-nutrition.

A  new report to be published next month on the State of Food Insecurity in the World by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United  Nations (UN) and the World Food Programme (WFP) will show  that the level of global hunger, mostly in Africa, is still unacceptably high. However, the report will similarly show that the global food crisis has dropped, as 925 million people are undernourished in 2010, compared to the 2009 figure of 1.02 billion.The report has been released early in order to highlight the risks posed by hunger to the achievement of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The first goal is to end poverty and hunger.

According to experts, malnutrition contributes to poverty because it causes or aggravates illness, lowers cognitive function and thus educational attainment, reduces productivity, and relegates the individual to reduced options for livelihoods. Malnutrition also result in increased susceptibility and inability to respond to infection, including food-borne diseases, measles, malaria, pneumonia and fatal parasitic infections. It can also create a vicious cycle of malnutrition, infection and water-borne diarrhea.

Consequently, food access, adequacy and quality are required to ensure that food security ultimately leads to an active healthy life for the individual as food is necessary for growth, resistance to or recovery from disease, pregnancy, lactation, and physical work.

The current food price crisis could result, in the short term, in an increase in malnutrition and the number of nutrition-related diseases, with more wasted children, more micro-nutrient deficiencies in women and children, more children born with low birth weights, and increased morbidity and mortality for mothers, newborns and children under-five. In the long term, this crisis will result in impaired mental development, diminished learning ability, reduced work productivity, and nutrition-related noncommunicable diseases.

Reacting to the current food crisis and its health implications on people, a Consultant Heamatologist & Oncologist at the University of  Lagos and Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idiaraba, Lagos, Dr. Edimisan O. Temiye stated  that hunger makes the body not to function appropriately. It arises when an individual or group of persons do not have the means to eat balanced meal, due to food crises, among other causes,
According to Temiye, although hunger can be defined in various ways depending on the circumstances, when someone is unable to eat a well balanced meal over a long period of time, that becomes an abnormality, which needs urgent medical attention.

He told the Nigerian Compass that hunger can be caused by poverty which arises as a result of inadequate economic power to get the right food.

Similarly, ignorance could be another factor. For instance, he noted that sometimes people get involved in eating food that are not healthy and as such develop malnutrition.

Temiye who is also a paediatrician and the current chairman, Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Lagos State Branch, noted that there are many symptoms of hunger. If somebody is lacking sufficient protein, the person starts losing weight and becomes thiner, he said. “In some situations, when it has to do with children, he said, the person may develop swelling in the body and it will lead to kwashiokor (a form of malnutrition due to a diet deficient in protein and energy-producing foods). This condition makes the person to become thin, looking quite old and quite slim. In medical science, this condition is also called marasmus (mixed deficiencies of both protein and calories, resulting in severe wasting in infants),” Temiye said.

Furthermore, he stated that if the person is lacking Vitamin A, the person will have Vitamin A deficiency. Apart from the person’s skin becoming black and rough, the fellow could develop blindness. It could also result to beriberi (a disease caused by lack of vitamin B).

Furthermore, it will bring about scurvy  when the person does not take a lot of Vitamin C, which can be sourced from  fruits and vegetables.

According to Temiye, the implications of lack of taking appropriate food is enormous and it can lead to failing health and even death.

He also disclosed that more than 50 per cent of childrens’ illnesses have underlined malnutrition and these children being malnourished cannot withstand diseases such as measles, pneumonia, among others.

“Somebody who is not well nourished may not be able to withstand the effects of malnutrition compared to someone who is well nourished and even when the weather is too cold, or too hot,  somebody who is not well nourished will not be able to stand cold and may die from low temperature,” Temiye said.

He said that economic power (money) should be made available for everyone, so as to make people eat the balanced diet, but  most importantly, nutritional education must also be provided for the population  because getting the money to eat without the right information on appropriate food to eat might still lead to malnutrition.

His words, “ If you have so much and you are eating ‘junks’ the person will become obese and it becomes a big problem, which may result to death,” Temiye said.

The chairman of the NMA in Lagos State posited that it is the duty of the people and the government to help reduce hunger.

According to him, the government should ensure that farmlands are cultivated because Nigeria as a country is fortunate to have the coast lands to the semi-Savannah areas, which have enough space to plant all types of food. He added that the government should also make things cheaper for farmers and thereby provide adequate storage facilities to enable them store excessive farm produce for a long period of time. 

He also advised the government to keep the prize of food as low as possible to make it affordable by everybody, thereby helping in reducing hunger.

However, WHO stated that there are efforts to integrate facility and community-based approaches for the management of severe malnutrition. Advocacy and communication to create, reinforce or sustain civil society demand for sound nutrition programmes are equally important.
Also, high impact interventions such as the promotion of breastfeeding and the improvement of complementary feeding should be encouraged at various levels . Educational and promotional strategies for breastfeeding, such as individual and group counselling and mass media campaigns, have been shown to increase the rates of exclusive breastfeeding in some countries. However the challenge is to provide sufficient trained counselors and ensure sustainability.
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