600m fall ill, 420,000 die annually after eating contaminated food globally
By Sola Ogundipe, Chioma Obinna & Gabriel Olawale
The Head of Mission and Representative of World Health Organisation, WHO in Nigeria, Dr Walter Kazadi Mulombo, yesterday said that the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the weaknesses and vulnerabilities in food production and control systems in the country.
To mark the 2021 World Food Safety Day, Mulombo said despite the fact that COVID-19 has not been transmitted by food, the pandemic has sharpened the focus on food safety-related issues, such as hygiene, antimicrobial resistance, zoonotic diseases, climate change, food fraud and the potential benefits of digitalizing food systems.
“Everyone irrespective of their age, gender, health and economic status has the right to have access to safe, sufficient, and nutritious food. Safe food assures improved nutrition, promotes health and vitality of families and communities.
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“Globally, an estimated 600 million – almost 1 in 10 people in the world – fall ill after eating contaminated food and 420 000 die every year. Consequently, in 2018, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 73/250 proclaiming 7 June as World Food Safety Day, taking into account the global burden of foodborne diseases, which affect individuals of all ages, in particular children under five years and persons living in low-income regions.
He explained that the resolution at the meeting acknowledges that “there is no food security without food safety and that in a world where the food supply chain has become more complex, any adverse food safety incident may have global negative effects on public health, trade and the economy”.
“The theme for this year: ‘Safe food today for a healthy tomorrow’, emphasizses that production and consumption of safe food has immediate and long-term benefits for people, the planet and the economy. Recognising the systemic One-Health connections between the health of people, animals, plants, the environment and in relation to economy, will help us meet the needs of the future.
“Also, recognising that women are very important players in the promotion of food safety and home hygiene, in 2019 WHO trained 345 women leaders from Edo and Ondo States on food hygiene and domestic sanitation towards the prevention of Lassa fever.
“We are currently working with health authorities to advocate for food safety as an important component of health security and for integrating food safety into national policies and programmes in line with the International Health Regulations.”
Data by the Food & Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, over 9 million people in Nigeria are at the risk of food insecurity, of whom 3.2 million in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe State.
This figure is expected to increase to over 12.8 million people, of whom 4.4 million in the three northeastern states, during June to August 2021, unless resilience-focused and humanitarian actions are taken,” it warned.
The FAO’s statement also highlighted the increasing number of forced displacements in the country, particularly in areas where armed attacks are more intensive, which affects the lives of millions of people in Africa’s most populous country.
“Increased violence and forced displacement continue to affect the humanitarian situation in northeastern Nigeria – the key hotspot of the armed conflict in the country – that has been further aggravated by trade disruptions and an economic decline linked to the effects of the coronavirus disease.
Regarding climate change’s impact on the West African country, the FAO said it affects food security and nutrition in the northeastern states.
“With the deterioration of the food security situation and an increased risk of famine in areas of Borno state, providing agricultural inputs to the most vulnerable households in time for the planting season starting in June is crucial to quickly increase food availability and access.”
The UN agency also stressed the importance of embracing the diversifying of livelihoods, production and income sources.