The 2014 Global Nutrition Report revealed that almost half (49 per cent) of women of a reproductive age in Nigeria are anaemic.
The fight against anaemia in Nigeria has received a major boost as Unilever’s biggest brand- Knorr has rolled out plans to tackle the nutritional disorder affecting pregnant women, teenage girls and women of reproductive age.
The Knorr intervention initiative entitled: “The Green Food Steps” is part of its commitment to help reduce the prevalence of iron deficiency anaemia in Nigeria, a major public health issue, by making nutritious cooking more desirable, easy to understand and afford.
This commitment forms part of Knorr’s social mission to improve the health and happiness of billions of consumers of the product by unlocking more flavour and goodness from everyday food.
Hence, the programme is aimed at educating mothers and their daughters on the importance of cooking and consuming iron-rich foods.
With majority of Nigerians particularly women and girls not eating enough iron-rich foods, the new initiative will combine a behaviour change programme with the introduction of iron fortified bouillon cubes.
The Knorr social mission takes a holistic approach, not only ‘Fork’ – championing nutritious cooking, but also improving livelihoods of the most affected groups – ‘Fortune’ and helping smallholder farmers- ‘Farm’
The announcement follows the release of the 2014 Global Nutrition Report which found that almost half (49 per cent) of women of a reproductive age in Nigeria are anaemic.
Statistics from the Nigerian Demographic and Health Survey, 2008 further revealed that majority of Nigerians are not consuming enough foods that are high in iron.
According to the survey, only 38 percent eat fruits and vegetables, including leafy green vegetables on a daily basis and only 33 percent consume meat daily.
Speaking during the launch of the initiative in Lagos last week, President, Nutrition Society of Nigeria(NSN), Prof. Ngozi Nnam, said vitamin and mineral deficiencies were among the largest public health challenges facing the country right now.
She explained: “ Our health system is already overburdened, so we need to educate people on how they can help prevent deficiencies through healthy diets.
Pregnant women, teenage girls and women of reproductive age are among the most vulnerable to iron deficiency anaemia because of high iron requirements.
Increasing iron intake during adolescence to prepare for pregnancy is crucial to decreasing the risk of iron deficiency anaemia and negative birth outcomes.”
Managing Director, Unilever Nigeria, Yaw Nsarkoh, in his remark, said: “Cooking habits are deeply rooted but we know that mothers pass recipes on to their daughters. So, by educating them on the need for iron-rich ingredients, we can drive behaviour change in the next generation. Again, by incorporating leafy greens and the Knorr fortified stock cubes into recipes, the programme will help mothers improve the nutritional value of everyday recipes.” Also, Founder-President of the Wellbeing Foundation Africa (WBF Africa), Mrs. Toyin Saraki, who expressed delight to be part of the behavioural change, called for more investment in women.
“Women lose a lot of iron during menstruation. So, consuming key vegetables will help improve their iron deficiency”, she said.
According to her, teenage girls need 50% more iron than when they were younger in order to cope with their body changes, adding that the initiative would have positive impact on maternal health in Nigeria, which is among the worst in Africa.
On her reasons for joining the programme, popular Nigerian actress, Omotola Jalade Ekeinde, said: “As a mother of teenage girls, I feel particularly touched by this issue. It’s nice to be able to raise awareness about iron deficiency anaemia and its consequences. This is a serious issue in Nigeria for many mothers and their teenage daughters who need more iron for development.”
The Green Food Steps consists of three simple steps and will start by getting 50,000 mothers and their daughters to practice the new cooking habits in Ijebu Ode and Amaigbo, and later to other part of the country.