By Cherno Omar Bobb
Malang Fofana, deputy executive director of the National Nutrition Agency (NaNA) has said that The Gambia is experiencing the ‘triple burden of malnutrition’ whereby under-nutrition, over-nutrition and micronutrient deficiency co-exist.
Mr Fofana made these remarks Wednesday during the launch of the Nutrition Week at Sunset beach hotel by NaNA in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO).
The Nutrition Week celebration is aimed at creating public awareness on the importance of healthy eating and adoption of desirable behaviors to address malnutrition in The Gambia.
The UN Nutrition Working Group is supporting the initiative that is funded by FAO through the European Union-FAO co-funded project titled “Improving Food Security and Nutrition in The Gambia through Food Fortification.”
The Nutrition Week will also provide the time to reflect on the importance of healthy eating and the adoption of desirable behaviors especially the reduction of the consumption of processed foods high in fat, sugar and salt, and the promotion of the consumption of diversified diet rich in micronutrients particularly fortified and bio-fortified foods.
The campaign also aims at making people knowledgeable on how to make good food and lifestyle-choices and develop healthy eating habits for themselves and others to enhance health and well-being.
Mr Fofana added that although there has been some significant improvement in reducing under-nutrition over the years, the prevalence rates are still unacceptably high, while overweight, obesity and diet related non-communicable diseases are increasingly becoming a challenge.
Fofana stated that under-nutrition is the single most important contributor to child mortality and leads to a significant loss in human and economic potential.
“Under-nutrition, particularly stunting, which irreversibly impedes a child’s physical development and cognitive abilities, is still high in The Gambia. Despite having improvements in the reduction of stunting in the country over the past decade from 23.4% in 2010 to 17.5% in 2019/2020, child under-nutrition remains a persistent threat to the lives of Gambian children. Similarly, anemia one of the most prevalent micro-nutrition deficiencies in the country has reduced drastically over the past years,” he highlighted.
Fofana said child nutrition is linked with chronic food and nutrition insecurity, which is still prevalent in The Gambia.
According to the draft report of the recently concluded Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerability Analysis (CFSVA), food insecurity has increased from 5.6% in 2011 to 8% in 2016 and 13.4% in 2021 and Mr Fofana said this has bearing on the nutritional status of women and children that can transmit from generation to generation.
He also stated that breaking the intergenerational cycle of malnutrition, emphasis should be placed on intervening in the 1,000 days “window of opportunity” i.e from conception to the first two years of the child’s life.
He further said that the “window of opportunity” is not only critical and compelling but also encompasses a vital part of the lives of both the mother and the child.