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The Manager of Nestle Nutrition Institute in the Central West African region, Dr. Kanalio Olaloku, has emphasized the significance of iron-rich foods for pregnant women and children aged 0-5.
She addressed the topic during a training session organized by Nestle Nigeria and the Lagos Business School (LBS) for journalists, focusing on exploring the burden of malnutrition in Africa.
Dr. Olaloku explained that iron plays a crucial role in the body’s proper functioning and is necessary for the production of hemoglobin.
Hemoglobin is a protein found in red blood cells that transports oxygen to all cells in the body. Iron is essential for the synthesis of hemoglobin, which gives red blood cells their characteristic color.
The absence of sufficient iron in the body can lead to anemia in pregnant women and hinder growth in children.
Dr. Olaloku cited research indicating that approximately 40% of individuals in developing countries are estimated to suffer from anemia, with pregnant women accounting for 50% of those affected.
“Research has it that 40 percent of the people in developing countries are estimated to be anemia while 50 percent of pregnant women are estimated to be anemia.
“Globally, there are 170 million underweight children, 3 million of whom will die each year as a result of being under weight.
“Additionally, World Health Organization (WHO) estimates worldwide that at least 20million children under five years of age are overweight, as well as more than a billion adults, and at least 300 million adults are clinically obese.
“The United Nations says 282 million people face malnutrition in Africa,” she said.
According to her, globally, there are 170 million underweight children, and each year, three million of them die due to being underweight. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that at least 20 million children under the age of five are overweight worldwide, along with over a billion adults.
Additionally, at least 300 million adults are clinically obese. The United Nations reports that 282 million people in Africa face malnutrition.
“Poverty increases chances of malnutrition, North-West and North East geopolitical zones are more at risk of malnutrition,” she added.
She then advised that the government should come up with strong policies that would factor in nutrition in all areas.
Dr. Olaloku also emphasized that 80% of brain development occurs in children between the ages of 0 and 5.
To address iron deficiency, she recommended deworming, supplementation, and fortification as crucial measures.
“There is a need for a multi-sectoral approach, and enhanced caregiver capability. The media should do more advocacy on nutrition and orientation for pregnant women on the need to take food that contains iron,” she said.