The wealth of a state is characterised by the health of her people. Thomas Edison once stated that, “a time comes when the doctors of the future will no longer treat the human frame from drugs, but rather will cure and prevent diseases with nutrition”. This statement is finding expression in our time as the Enugu State Government under the leadership of our amiable Governor, Rt. Hon. Dr. Lawrence Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi has shown undaunted commitment to building a healthy food system in the State in accordance to the United Nations goal of ensuring a healthy and affordable food system for all.
Speaking at the recent event of the 51st Annual General Meeting and Scientific Conference of the Nutrition Society of Nigeria (NSN) held at the Amadeo Event Centre Enugu, the Honourable Commissioner for Budget and Planning; Dr. David Okelue Ugwunta, thanked the Nutrition Society of Nigeria for choosing Enugu State as the host state for its 51st Annual Conference with theme “Promoting Healthy Diets through Food System Transformation”. He emphasized that Enugu State Government led by the Governor, Rt. Hon. Dr. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi is highly sensitive to issues of nutrition and food systems. Hence, this has prompted:
- The setting up and inauguration of the Enugu State Committee on Food and Nutrition made up of MDAs involved in nutrition and food systems under the coordination of the State Ministry of Budget and Planning on the 21st of July, 2020.
- The adoption of National Food and Nutrition Policy as well as the domestication of the Multi-Sectoral Strategic Plan of Action for Food and Nutrition.
- Hosting of the South-East regional dialogue of United Nations Food Systems Summit in Nike Lake Hotel, Enugu in April, 2021.
- Participation of Enugu State in the ongoing UNICEF Progressive Action on Resilient Systems for Nutrition through Innovation and Partnership (PARSNIP) amongst other food system interventions.
Wrapping up his speech, Dr. Ugwunta urged the stakeholders in the food systems to promote indigenous foods which are more nutritious, making social protection programmes more nutrition sensitive, promotion of food marketing and regulation standards and an enabling environment for food systems activities to thrive.
The Chairman of the Occasion, Prof. I.A Onimawo stated that many of our nutritionist sometimes find it difficult to relate food system to nutrition probably because it is not included in the curriculum, rather they see it as agriculture. However he noted that a lot of discussion has been going on in National Universities Commission concerning the curriculum of Nutrition.
In a welcome address, the President of the Nutrition Society of Nigeria, Prof. Wasiu O. Afolabi noted that the United Nations and relevant stakeholders across the globe have been working assiduously toward understanding and managing the complex choices that affect the future of food systems and accelerate progress towards SDGs. Hence the theme of the conference, “Promoting Healthy Diets through Food System Transformation” which is aptly in line with the global concern on how to meet the challenge of providing adequate and healthy food to the world while ensuring that the environment is protected to support life.
The keynote speaker, Dr. Adeyinka Onabolu explained that the food system entails all the aspects of feeding and nourishing people beginning from food production, harvesting, processing, packaging, transporting, marketing and finally consumption of food.
In her words, “excessive focus on agriculture and food security in Nigeria over time has brought about unintended consequences of creating a food environment that is not diverse and is unable to provide an adequate variety of affordable, safe and nutrient dense foods”. Thus the resulting challenges causing 21 foodborne diseases estimated (at about $16 billion ) to cause an annual loss of human capital; stunted growth in 37% of children under 5, 58% of anemia in women of reproductive age, obesity, Type 2 diabetes among others.
Dr. Onabolu also stated that the food system in Nigeria has been vulnerable to post harvest losses, climate changes, erosion, conflicts and many more. However, despite these challenges, increasing access to healthy foods which includes reframing policies and actions across all relevant domains of food system to ensure delivery of high quality diets, making evidence-based policy and public investments in healthy and sustainable foods and diets, incentivizing women and youth-led enterprise at scale to grow and sell currently underutilized indigenous nutritious crops; using ‘Red Dots’ on the labelling of foods items that are not healthy amongst others are solutions proffered to these challenges bedeviling the country’s food system.
Also at the event were, the immediate past president of NSN, Dr. B.I. C Brai; Dr. Salisu Maiwada A; Vice President North NSN, Dr. Folake Samuel; National General Secretary, Dr. Patricia Ukegbu, Honourable Commissioner for Health; Asso. Prof Ikechukwu Obi, Hon. Comm. for Agriculture, Matthew Hon. Com. for Information; Barr. Chidi Aroh represented by Mrs Amaka Eloike; Dieticians, Food Scientists and other Stakeholders.