Nestlé Nigeria Plc says there is urgent need to tackle iron deficiency in the country as incidence have shown it to be high enough to be a public health issue.
Victoria Uwadoka, Corporate Communications and Public Affairs Manager, Nestlé Nigeria, made the disclosure at the concluding session of a three-week virtual training workshop organised for journalists covering Health, Nutrition, Environment and Business.
The programme, which was organised by Nestlé Nigeria in partnership with Pan Atlantic University had as its theme:“Advancing Nutrition, Health and Environmental Awareness through the Media”.
Uwadoka said that iron deficiency is serious issue because iron helps form and oxygenate blood cells and haemoglobin; haemoglobin’s primary role is to transport oxygen from the lungs to body tissues to maintain basic life functions.
According to her, one needs blood to carry nutrients all around the body and being deficient in that results to poor absorption of food nutrients, lack of energy, anaemia and others.
As part of efforts to tackle iron deficiency in Nigeria and ensure good life for all, Uwadoka said that Nestle Nigeria had concluded plans to unveil a new campaign tagged “Live Strong With Iron” (LSWI).
“The campaign is aimed at educating the public on the need to eat nutritious foods.
“The launch comes up on April 7, 2021, in commemoration of this year’s World Food Day.
“We are going to call out the fact that iron deficiency is a public health issue; all stakeholders should be involved to tackle this.
“So it is important that we frame the problem, call attention to the problem, and then remove that challenge of low awareness.
“Because once we have done that, then we are able to call out the solution, which is the second thing that the campaign wants to do,’’ she said.
Uwadoka said that available statistics in their possession showed that 68 per cent of children under-five years were iron deficient and 37 per cent were stunted.
Also, 58 per cent of women within the representative age of 15 to 49 years were also shown to be iron deficient.
She said the objective of the campaign is to reach at least 50 per cent of Nigerians with increased knowledge and awareness in order to reduce incidence of iron deficiency.
“At Nestlé, we are committed to enabling people to lead healthier, happier lives by continuously improving our products, providing affordable nutrition for everyone.
“Beyond delivering tasty and nutritious products to consumers, we work alongside stakeholders to build strong communities and supply chains while improving livelihoods in communities directly connected to our business activities.
“Our Creative Shared Value (CSV) focus areas in Nigeria include Nutrition Education, Building Thriving Communities, Youth Empowerment and Preservation of the Environment,” she said.
Also, Akua Kwakwa, Nutrition, Health and Wellness Manager for Nestlé Central and West Africa, highlighted the importance of iron and impact of iron deficiency.
“Oxygen is the fuel for our bodies. It is responsible for transporting the oxygen from our lungs to all our cells in the bodies to use as fuel.
“ So, if we don’t have enough iron, we are breathing all right, but we are not transporting enough oxygen to our cells for them to do their different functions to produce enzymes to give us energy for our brains work.
“Iron deficiency is the most common micronutrient deficiency both globally and locally and the impact on a child’s growth and development is devastating.
“It’s usually irreversible. The impact on our productivity, on our life expectancy, especially at the time of childbirth is devastating.
“It also drives what we call hidden hunger, whereby we still continue to function and see things as normal but we have frequent headaches, weakness, fatigue, and the inability to concentrate.
“And when it gets extreme, it can even cause hair loss and dull skin. So the impact of iron deficiency, cannot be underrated,’’ she said.