From Paul Osuyi, Asaba

Chairman of South-South Governors’ Forum and governor of Delta State, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa has advocated the need for the relevant organs to come up with policies to improve food nutrition in the entire region.

Okowa lamented that consumption of vital nutrients including cereals, beans and animal protein among others, in the region was far below the recommended standards by Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The governor spoke in Asaba, Delta State capital where he declared open a one-day Regional Exploratory Dialogue for the United Nations Food System Summit.

Organised by the state government in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Budget and National Planning, the dialogue was held for participants in Delta, Edo and Bayelsa states.

Represented by the Secretary to the State Government, Chiedu Ebie, Okowa stated that the rate of hunger, poverty, malnutrition, general insecurity, environmental degradation, climate changes, population increase, poor land tenure system, poor investment in food production and inadequate preservation resulting in huge losses, poor handling of foods as well as threat to human rights, were on steady rise in the region.

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“Available statistics indicate that in the South-South geo-political zone of Nigeria, per capita production and consumption levels for cereal, beans/pulses, fat and oil as well as fruit and vegetables are constantly lower than the Food and Agriculture Organisation and World Health Organisation recommended values.

“Also, per capita consumption levels for animal protein are consistently below the recommended per intake levels. This suggests that the people of the region are grossly undernourished.

“The South-South zone, like the other parts of the country, have a lot of nutritional challenges with stunting rate as high as 27% for boys and 18% for girls under 5 years (NBS, 2019). Prevalence of wasting was put at 2.4% and 9.2% for boys and girls respectively (NBS, 2019).

“It is, therefore, imperative that very drastic measures are taken because the effect of malnutrition during in the lives of these under-five affects them even in their adult life, if they survive to adulthood. The SDG target for wasting by 2030 is less than 3%.

“The task before us now is to formulate policies to achieve the SDG targets. Nutrition situation in the South-South zone has also been made worse by COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to hike in prices of food items and agricultural inputs, in addition to insecurity, militancy, and kidnapping in the region,” he stated.

He however noted that “there have been spirited efforts by state governments in the region to improve the nutritional profile of our foods,” through adoption and domestication of the policies and costed strategic plans by states in the zone.