By G9ija

Rep. Benjamin Kalu, Chairman, Media and Public Affairs Committee, House of Representatives has urged the presidency to tackle iron deficiency in children through the Federal Government’s School Feeding Programme.

Kalu said this on Wednesday in Abuja at the Public Launch of “Live Strong With Iron”, a campaign championed by Nestle Nigeria Plc, to create awareness on the devastating effect of low consumption of iron-friendly foods.

The spokesman of the House of Reps noted that was introduced to help the children realise their potential and as such must be properly scrutinised to ensure the foods served the pupils contain iron.

“Information is power, so this advocacy is commendable and I want the Federal Ministry of Health and Education to buy into this, especially as it concerns the School Feeding Programme.

“The foods given to children must contain iron. Again, who is looking at those foods to make sure the right nutrients are there?

“It is a question the various agencies in charge of these children in the school age bracket should answer.

“We will like the FG to look into ensuring that this iron deficiency is taken care of in ongoing school feeding programme.

“We are glad that the private sector has initiated this move and I want to raise a call to the Ministry of Information and the National Orientation Agency (NOA) to buy into it.

“This is because the more the people are educated about where to find this almighty iron, they will appreciate it,” Kalu said.

He promised that the House of Reps would always stand with Nigerians to fill the gaps of economic imbalance created by the outbreak of COVID-19 especially as it concerned legislative interventions needed to propagate the iron intake advocacy.

Victoria Uwadoka, Corporate Communications and Public Affairs Manager, Nestle Nigeria Plc
Victoria Uwadoka, Corporate Communications and Public Affairs Manager, Nestle Nigeria Plc

Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs Pauline Tallen, represented by Mrs Anthonia Ekpa, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Women Affairs, said the ministry was strategically placed to provide women with food and other stuff.

Tallen said that they had already formed a coalition with some Civil Society Groups and NGOs to ensure foods distributed to women especially in rural areas especially at this critical time contain iron.

“I will advise that there be a collaboration with our ministry and Ministry of Health on this; these meals are not expensive to afford, we will work together to improve lives,” she said.

Also speaking, Minister of Agriculture, Alhaji Sabo Nanono, represented by Mrs Karima Babangida, Director, Food & Strategic Reserve, said half of all anaemia cases were caused by iron deficiency and that government was working assiduously to stem the tide.

“This administration decided that there must be food security through the campaign against malnutrition in children under-five.

“This has also led to increased investment in nutritious food production as the iron campaign falls into the administration’s food security programme.

“We believe that this campaign will contribute to the national effort to raise awareness on Iron intake particularly the vulnerable households who do not have access to nutritional foods at all times.

“The campaign will reduce the incidence of iron deficiency with focus on children, pregnant women, lactating mothers and other people with special attention.

“From the statistics Nestle presented, we can see that more than 68 per cent of Nigerian children and 58 per cent of women are anaemic and this is not a good development.

“Iron deficiency prevents children from attaining their physical and intellectual potential and severe anaemia contributes to about 50,000 deaths of women at childbirth each year, globally,” Nanono said.

Earlier, Communication Head of Nestle, Ms Victoria Uwadoka said Nestle was out to educate the public on Iron intake and the nutritious food choices that should aid good health.

Uwadoka urged Nigerians to consume dark green leaves, egusi, beans, nuts, meat, fish, chicken, whole grains and offal to prevent iron deficiency.

“Combine plants and animal sources of iron whenever possible; eat meals with vitamin C fruits and vegetables to help our bodies absorb more iron.

“Don’t overcook vegetables; wait an hour before or after meals before drinking tea and choose packaged foods that are fortified with iron,” she said.

She further said that Nestle Nigeria would continue to create awareness of the importance of Iron, the severe impact of iron deficiency anemia, and the affordable and accessible solutions.

This, she said, would be done in partnership with stakeholders to amplify, advocate, and help drive better eating choices.