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Marking World Health Day

Yesterday, April 7, the international community marked the World Health Day. The day, which coincides with the establishment of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 1948, is held every year to draw worldwide attention to a subject of major importance to global health. The theme of this year’s celebration “Food Safety” intends to highlight the dangers associated with unsafe food containing harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances that are responsible for more than 200 diseases and is linked to the deaths of more than two million people annually, mostly children. As a body, the World Health Organisation advocates food safety as a shared responsibility from farmers and manufacturers to vendors and consumers, while raising awareness on the role each has to play in ensuring that the food we consume is safe. Definitely, the theme for this year is very apt, especially for Nigeria and her citizens. Available statistics show that more than malnutrition contributes more than 50 percent of mortality among children less than five years. In recent times, there has been unprecedented number of food-borne disease outbreak, hence the need to improve the quality of food processing in the country. Experts posit that the contamination of food and feeds arising from naturally occurring toxicants, microbiological contaminants, and chemical contaminants such as additives used above the permitted levels, pesticide and veterinary residues in food or as toxic components from food processing could have deleterious effects in humans and animals. Bacterial food-borne diseases caused by species of Salmonella, Clostridium, Campylobacter and Escherichia including presence of mycotoxins produced by toxigenic fungi in food and feed exacerbates endemic diseases such as malaria, hepatitis, HIV with consequent acute and chronic effects. Similarly, improper use of food additives such as artificial sweeteners could result in various ailments ranging from gastrointestinal disorders to carcinogenesis and death. A WHO manual for Integrated Food borne Disease Surveillance, states that ensuring food safety is a critical and fundamental component of public health and food security. It also noted that efficient food safety and quality programmes reduce food losses by about 30 percent, which is important for food security. The report shows that key response gaps include lack of policy coherence among the different sectors, inadequate food safety capacities, inadequate financial investments, fragmented food control systems, weak food borne disease surveillance, obsolete food regulation and weak law enforcement and the inability of small- and medium-scale producers to provide safe food. That is why a coalition of Civil Society Organisation(CSOs) are advocating a food and nutrition secured Nigeria. We therefore urge Nigerians to desist from consuming fatty food and ensure their food, is properly cooked, even as government at all levels should take full responsibility of campaigning for food safety, personal hygiene and exclusive breast feeding by nursing mothers.



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