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Impact Of Nutrition On Nations Produtivity And Healthy Growth

Nigeria has improved significantly socio-economically unlike previous years. The problem of malnutrition still faced some of its citizens. Political instability, corruption, inadequate infrastructure and poor macroeconomic management have long plagued it. This has led it to over-rely on the capital-intensive oil sector, which provides 20% of GDP, 95% of foreign exchange earnings and about 65% of fiscal revenue. However, some government and economic reforms have brought great improvement ranging from an estimated increase in its GDP per capita from $430 in 2003 to $1,000 in 2005. A decrease in the unemployment rate from 3.2% in 1997 to 2.9% in 2005. banking microfinance and the liquidation and consolidation of banks by the CBN, resulted in the ranking of Nigerian banks as one of the best in Africa. The highlight of the whole affair was the historic debt relief of $30 billion out of the $37 billion Nigeria owed to the Paris Club in March 2006. Despite all these recent developments, 70% of Nigerians are still under the alienating hands of malnutrition and 60% in 2000 below the poverty line. I have categorized Nigeria’s nutritional problem for clarification into undernutrition, overnutrition and micronutrition. The purpose of this article is to review the government’s effort and also to suggest ways to get the country out of the alienating hands of poverty that threatens the country’s future.


Although the three nutritional problems constitute a summary of the country’s malnutrition problem, it is good to review the whole problem one after the other. Malnutrition is the biggest nutritional problem that mostly affected the people in the rural areas and some of them who went to the city in search of greener pasture. Malnutrition is characterized by inadequate intake of macro-nutrients (ie: calories and protein). According to President Obasanjo, “almost half of children aged 7+-13 in Nigeria are underweight”. Many children and adults go to bed hungry, some eat one meal a day and most of those meals are carbohydrates. This leads to malnutrition and protein deficiency. It is the main cause of kwashiorkor which is most unique to people living in the tropical African region. For adults, the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.79 g per kg (0.36 g per 1 b) of body weight each day. For children and infants this RDA is doubled and tripled, respectively, due to their rapid growth. This is the root cause of stunted growth and deformity in growing children. One fifth of Nigeria’s children die before the age of five, mostly from millions of Nigerians who also live on less than a dollar a day, others who live by begging for food on the streets.

Overnutrition is mainly the problem of adults and a few teenagers especially city dwellers. It is a rapidly escalating public nutrition problem, mainly reflecting changing dietary patterns and a more sedentary lifestyle. The situation in Nigeria where the economy favors a certain group over others, the poor get poorer while the rich get richer had caused a higher rate of overnutrition – Nigerian Fatty Disease. This dietary problem is now at an alarming rise in diet-related chronic diseases such as type II diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and several diet-related cancers. These chronic diseases are responsible for human suffering, social discomfort, lost productivity and economic burden on health and other economic sectors. Obsessive population growth in the country affects the country’s labor force and the country’s productivity both now and in the near future.

Last but not least on the list are micronutrient deficiencies. It is the insufficient intake of essential vitamins and minerals. It is experienced by both the poor and the rich, rural and urban dwellers. It is hunger hidden under the guise of sufficiency in Nigerian society. Lack of vitamins and minerals results in irreversible damage to the child’s physical and mental development. This is why this type of malnutrition is focused on pregnant women and children. According to some empirical findings, even moderate iodine deficiency during fetal development and infancy has been shown to reduce IQ levels by 10-15 points. Folic acid deficiency is associated with severe birth defects. Insufficient iron affects children’s growth and learning ability and reduces their ability to concentrate, participate fully in school and society interact and develop. it also contributes to material mortality and reduced labor productivity. It has been recorded that 40% of children under the age of 5 suffer from vitamin A deficiency.

The three major nutritional problems in Nigeria pose a major challenge to the country’s faltering economy, have led to a reduction in imports of costly protein-rich food, oil and animal feed. Many parents are now abandoning the task of breastfeeding and all these and more contribute to the risk of malnutrition in Nigeria and more so now in a rapid socio-economic revolution.


Nigeria’s economy was dominated by agriculture and trade, which flourished during colonial rule in the 19th century. In the 1960s and 1970s the oil industry developed and led to significantly increased export earnings and enabled massive investment in industry, agriculture, infrastructure and the social sciences.

A sharp drop in oil prices, economic mismanagement, and continued military rule characterized Nigeria in the 1980s. In 1983, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) began providing assistance to Nigeria’s Federal Ministries of Health and the Ministry of State Health for the development and implementation of family planning and child survival programs. In 1992, an HIV/AIDS prevention and control program was added to existing health activities USAID committed $135 million in bilateral aid programs for the period 1986-1996 as Nigeria undertook an initially successful Structural Adjustment program but later abandoned it. Plans to provide $150 million in aid from 1993 to 2003 were disrupted by tensions in US-Nigeria relations over human rights abuses, the failed transition to democracy and a lack of cooperation from the Nigerian government on anti-drug-trafficking issues. By the mid-1990s, these problems resulted in limited USAID activities that could benefit the military government. Existing health programs were redesigned to focus on working through Nigerian non-governmental organizations and grassroots community groups.

In 1987, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), under Principal Investigator Dr. Kenton Dashiell, launched a controversial effort in Nigeria to combat widespread malnutrition. They encouraged the use of nutritious, economical soybeans in everyday food. They also said that soy is about 40% richer in protein than any of the common plant or animal food sources found in Africa. By adding corn, rice and other grains to soy, the resulting protein meets the standards of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Soy also contains about 20% oil, which is 85% unsaturated and cholesterol-free. Although many fine programs to alleviate malnutrition were started during this period, there were many other socio-economic thorns that prevented the popularity and smooth functioning of these programs until the democratic period. Economic instability during this period greatly favored malnutrition due to the authoritarian government. There has been little or no in-depth effort to combat malnutrition. The period can be defined as the selfish period – when governmental private interest prevailed at the expense of the suffering masses.


The most interesting part of this period is that it is characterized by promise and hope. Promise which is the main working tool of this season and hope ever present to keep the promise. President Obasanjo in 2002 in a meeting with the president of the International Union of Nutritional Sciences pledged to support better coordination of nutrition activities and programs in Nigeria, he further said, “the high prevalence of malnutrition is totally unacceptable to this government and assured the president of IUNS that it would do everything possible to ensure that resources are available to improve household food security, greater access to health care services and better caregiving capacity by mothers, including support to promote breastfeeding.

On September 27, 2005, Nigeria’s President Chief Olusegun Obasanjo hosted lunch at the Nasarawa State School Feeding Program at Laminga Primary School. The program is fully funded and managed by Nasarawa State, making it a unique model in Africa today. The event of the season fulfills one of the promises to fight malnutrition, especially among children, who noticed that many in the age of 7-13 are underweight. In addition, it promises to reach around 27 million children in the next 10 years.

Other international agencies such as the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) which started in 1992 but became more established during the democratic regime . All of them and many others are fighting hard to eradicate poverty and malnutrition.

There are many challenges that exist in some nutrition improvement programs. There is a need for government to place some nutritional research into national policy. They should be able to reach the ends and ends of the country. They should be able to coordinate all areas of anti-malnutrition services. Much more effective intervention is needed.

Nutrition is now an invasive issue a stake but also the inevitable duty of every nation. Although it is difficult to bring solution to everyone’s doorstep, the government should try as much as possible to reach people through mobile agencies and mass media. There should be a lot of effective research conducted in the nation to be informed by information such as: average government investment in nutrition per capital, current data on nutritional deficiencies and information on nutrition initiatives, as well as national policy frameworks and interagency coordination mechanisms . There is a need to promote food organization especially, non-governmental organization. The government should try to improve the socio-economic life of the citizens. Agriculture should be encouraged and improved in the country. The nutritional value of every product, whether imported or not, should be checked. The government should promote a global nutrition agenda, which will increase the visibility of nutrition at the national level and beyond.

If these above suggested solutions were taken into consideration, Nigeria would be greatly improved as the giant of Africa and future giant of the world economy, thereby clearing the future economic storm that Nigeria is facing because some of its citizens are suffering from nutritional problems.

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