Posted Wed, Oct 4, 2023 2:15 PM
For good health, food is essential. Dietary risk factors are estimated to contribute to 11 million fatalities worldwide yearly (20% of all deaths) and the loss of 255 million disability-adjusted years of life owing to illness, disability, or early death. Due to the high economic burden of Vitamins and Mineral Deficiencies (MND) and the relatively low cost of adding vitamins and minerals, economists have concluded that food fortification and workforce nutrition are among the most cost-effective investments in national economic development.
It is on this premise that the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), in collaboration with eHealth Africa and the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), On Tuesday, 26th of September, 2023, went on an advocacy visit to NASCON Allied Industries Plc, producers of Dangote Salts.
Mr Dianabasi Akpainyang, Thematic Lead, Input and Distribution Thematic Group, Agriculture and Food Security Policy Commission, NESG, in his briefing, stated that according to the National Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) 2022, 44.1 per cent of children under the age of five in Nigeria are stunted, meaning they are too short for their age and that 20.3 per cent of children under the age of five in Nigeria are wasted. He stated that food fortification is a proven way to improve nutrition and health as it is a simple, cost-effective intervention that can be used to add essential nutrients to foods commonly consumed by large populations.
Furthermore, Mr Akpainyang reiterated that the importance of workforce nutrition in Nigeria could not be overstated, noting that while working-class individuals spend one-third of the day within the work environment (an average of 8 hours), a good percentage of such workers do not eat healthy within this time for reasons such as availability and affordability. He further stated that this significantly impacts productivity, as malnourished workers are more likely to be sick, tired, have industrial accidents, and be absent from work, thereby leading to lost man hours.
Mr Akpainyang stated that these facts devastate health, productivity, and economic development, even though he revealed that Nigeria loses an estimated $1.5 billion in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) annually due to diminished productivity and increased healthcare costs caused by malnutrition.
Mr Akpainyang noted that it was on this premise that the NESG and her partners, CISLAC and eHealth Africa, are holding the advocacy visit to raise awareness of the importance of micronutrient deficiency and to advise on effective strategies for addressing it. He urged the company to promote workforce nutrition among staff members, adding that a well-nourished workforce was essential for economic growth and development. He said that workforce nutrition could reduce absenteeism, improve workers' productivity, reduce healthcare costs, and increase employee morale while also encouraging the company to ensure its workers eat food fortified with essential vitamins and minerals.
Mr Danjuma Musa, Quality Assurance/Control Head, NASCON Allied Industries Plc, said that Dangote salt was fortified with Iodine that would help the growth and development of the human body. He said, “Let me start by saying that salt produced in Nigeria must be fortified, so all our salt, irrespective of the end user, is fortified with Iodine. Fortification of salt with Iodine is a safe and effective way to prevent iodine deficiency. Dangote salt is fortified with iodine at the recommended and specified level, making it a good choice for people looking to improve their iodine intake.” Mr Musa also said that Iodine fortification of salt was a mandatory requirement in Nigeria, adding that the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control has established a standard for the iodine content of fortified salt.
In her remarks, the Head of Health Safety and Sustainability, Ms Disoye Oba, said that NASCON Allied Ltd is a foremost salt refinery company in Nigeria that produces about 40 tonnes of refined salt per hour. She noted that the company is conscious of her Corporate Social Responsibility, which has necessitated holding capacity programs, renovation of public toilets, digital finance training, youth empowerment training and social impact assessment and sustainability report training. She revealed that the company was ISO9001 & ISO 22000 certified.
On her part, the Human Resource Manager, Dangote Salt, Mrs Helen Omoba, said that the company had implemented a fortified meal plan that would benefit their employees and the company. She said," We have educated our employees about the benefits of a fortified diet. We have explained to them how fortified meals can help them to improve their health, productivity, and overall well-being. That is why we came up with a fortified meal plan for them, even though some of them don't follow the program.
"We have also provided our employees with a budget to purchase fortified meals at the end of every month, among other things that we are doing for them, and they are happy."