Underscoring the importance of iron-rich foods for expectant mothers and children aged 0-5, Dr. Kanalio Olaloku, the Manager of Nestle Nutrition Institute in the Central West African region, delivered a compelling address. Her remarks took place during a training session organized by Nestle Nigeria and the Lagos Business School (LBS) for journalists, focusing on exploring the prevalence of malnutrition in Africa.
Dr. Olaloku elucidated the pivotal role of iron in ensuring the body’s optimal functioning and its vital contribution to hemoglobin production.
Hemoglobin, a protein present in red blood cells, serves as the carrier of oxygen to all cells within the body. Iron is indispensable for hemoglobin synthesis, which imparts the characteristic color to red blood cells.
Insufficient iron levels in the body can lead to anemia in pregnant women and hamper the growth of children.
Referring to research findings, Dr. Olaloku highlighted that approximately 40% of individuals in developing countries are estimated to suffer from anemia, with pregnant women constituting 50% of those affected.
“Research indicates that anemia affects around 40 percent of the population in developing countries, with pregnant women accounting for 50 percent of the cases,” she stated.
She further shared global statistics, stating, “Globally, there are 170 million underweight children, and tragically, three million of them succumb to underweight-related complications each year.”
Dr. Olaloku also drew attention to the estimates provided by the World Health Organization (WHO), which suggest that worldwide, over 20 million children below the age of five are overweight, in addition to more than a billion adults. Furthermore, at least 300 million adults are clinically obese.
Highlighting the dire situation, she referenced the United Nations’ report indicating that 282 million people in Africa face the challenge of malnutrition.
“Malnutrition is more prevalent in regions characterized by poverty, with the North-West and North-East geopolitical zones being particularly at risk,” she added.
Dr. Olaloku stressed the need for robust governmental policies that encompass nutrition across all sectors.
Furthermore, she emphasized that 80% of brain development occurs during the crucial period from birth to five years of age.
To combat iron deficiency, she advocated for the implementation of essential measures such as deworming, supplementation, and fortification.
“A multi-sectoral approach and enhanced caregiver capability are imperative. The media should engage in advocacy efforts to promote nutrition, and pregnant women should receive proper guidance on the importance of consuming iron-rich foods,” she advised.