EYEAFRICA TV: Banjul, The Gambia: Permanent Secretary at the Office of the Vice President, Muhamadou Lamin Jaiteh said a nationwide survey to determine the prevalence of micro-nutrient malnutrition has indicated that vitamin A, Iron, Anaemia and Iodine deficiency disorders are highly prevalent in the Gambia.
“In 2018, government of The Gambia conducted a nationwide survey to determine the prevalence of micro-nutrient malnutrition. The result showed that micro-nutrient malnutrition, particularly vitamin A, Iron, Anaemia and Iodine deficiency disorders are highly prevalent in The Gambia,” he said.
Mr Jaiteh was speaking at the launch of the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations and the European Union Social and Behavioural Change Communication Caravan (SBCC) for food and bio-fortification, as part of celebrations marking World Food Day, on Tuesday,
He said the survey also indicates that 50.4% of children and 50.9% of women are anaemic, while 18% of children are Vitamin A deficient. Almost 80% of households consume iodized salt while only 10% are consuming adequately iodized salt.
He said Gambia government is committed to reducing and eliminating micro-nutrient deficiencies by ensuring food and nutrition security for the Gambian population.
The project dubbed ‘bio-fortification project, (Baluu-Timaring-Ngo)’ is funded by the European Union in partnership with the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations.
The caravan is on a nationwide trek targeting all the regions in The Gambia with the aim to raise awareness on healthy and nutritious diets amongst the population.
Programme manager of the EU Delegation in The Gambia, Darrell Sexton said World Health Organisation (WHO) considers that poor nutrition is the single most important threat to the world’s health.
He said it is an underlying cause of at least one third of all child deaths and 20% of maternal mortality every year, in many developing countries.
“Although progress is being made, statistics released in the not too distant past showed that globally, around 165 million, or a quarter of the world’s children, suffered from stunting and 2.6 million children under the age of five die every year as a result of undernutrition,” he said.
He said over 90% of the affected children live in Africa and Asia, and around 52 million (8%) of the world’s under-five children are wasted, with the greatest numbers also found in Asia and in Africa.
Mr Sexton said many women in developing countries are also short in stature or underweight, with ten to 20% of the women in Sub-Sahara Africa classified as excessively thin. He added that Iron deficiency anaemia is the most widespread nutritional problem for this group affecting almost half of all women.
“While recognising that some countries continue to make good progress to address food and nutrition insecurity and chronic child malnutrition, the European Council remains extremely concerned that after decades of decline, global hunger has been on the rise for the past years, with 821 million people suffering from hunger and malnutrition. Meanwhile, an estimated 151 million children under the age of five are still suffering from stunting.”
The EU delegation programme head said in 2017, 124 million people across 51 countries faced crisis-levels of acute food insecurity, requiring urgent action- representing 11% increase compared to 2016.
Shibu Rampeds, FAO country representative said nutrition is one of the most important contributors of human health, saying people who eat nutritious food live longer and are protected against chronic illnesses.
“In 2010, stunting in The Gambia was about 24%, by 2018, it has been reduced to 19%. However, more is still needed to be done as malnutrition remains a major problem in The Gambia.”
Madam Rampeds reaffirms FAO’s commitment in supporting Gambia in its efforts to combat food insecurity and malnutrition by raising the level of nutrition and standards of living by promoting sustainable agricultural growth.