A call has gone out to parents, guardians and other stakeholders in the food and beverages industries and the Federal Government to be mindful of the inherent risks associated with malnutrition among Nigerian youths.
The Ogun State Chapter of the Nutrition Society of Nigeria (NSN), made the call during its 2010 Annual Symposium, titled: Children and Adolescent Nutrition in Nigeria, held at the University of Agriculture, Abeokuta.
According to the Society, the alarming rise in ill-health, disabilities and death among adolescents in Nigeria was attributable to the consequences of malnutrition and its associated negative effects, which it said, are serious threats to the economic growth of the nation.
In a Keynote Address, titled: Update of Nutritional Situation of Nigerian Youths, Professor R.O. Abidoye of the College of Medicine, University of Lagos, noted that one third (about 36.5 million) of the Nigerian Population which are youths, could be endangered.
The speaker noted that 75 per cent of teenage girls and 17 per cent of boys, do not meet the dietary requirements for iron, thereby making them vulnerable to anaemia and other forms of malnutrition.
Professor Abidoye, represented by Dr. Folu Olatona, identified poverty, ignorance, over-consumption of unhealthy food and food restrictions, based on cultural beliefs, as other key causes of malnutrition.
He advocated the need for proper attention, to be paid to the nutritional status of the upcoming generation adding that necessary legislations and policies that will support health education programmes, deliberately targeted at adolescents and parents, should be passed.
The Professor also advised that the Federal Government should implement a school feeding programme, such that youths could be fed with healthy diet/snacks, at least while in school, to serve as preventive measure.
Earlier, in his Opening Remarks, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Agriculture, Abeokuta and Chairman of the occasion, Professor Oluwafemi Olaiya Balogun, described the symposium as a clarion call to all Nigerians to work together towards securing a brighter future for the youths, by building them up nutritionally.
Professor Balogun submitted that food being a necessity for all, urged that adolescents should be provided with the right formula and quality, so that their health and future could be properly secured.
The Vice-Chancellor, represented by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Academic, Professor Chryss Onwuka, assured NSN of the University’s commitment towards building the nation, nutritionally.
The Vice-Chancellor also lauded the former Dean of the College of Animal Science and Livestock Production (COLANIM), Professor Babatunde Oguntona, for imparting positively on the nutrition world and for using his vintage position to attract scholarships for students of the University.