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World Health Day: Experts Advocate Better Sanitary Conditions
By Abiose Adelaja Adams
A medical expert, Wellington Oyibo has urged Nigerians to take extra precaution with the kinds of food they eat as this may have negative impact on their heath.
Oyibo, a Consultant Medical Parasitologist and associate professor at the University of Lagos College of Medicine, Idi Araba, said that food contamination by microorganisms from bad water, poor handling, or improper cooking is the leading cause of most illnesses suffered by Nigerians.
Speaking to icirnigeria.org on the occasion of the World Health Day which was held on Tuesday, Oyibo advised Nigerians to pay careful attention when eating ‘suya’ meat, a favorite local delicacy of spiced and barbequed meat.
“Suya in itself may not cause food poisoning because it is roasted but the condiments sprinkled on it are most times not hygienically prepared and may carry microorganisms that may result in one form of food poisoning or the other,” he observed..
In a related development, the coordinator of The Micronutrient Initiative, Francis Aminu, has also said that deaths due to malnutrition can be reduced by 50 per cent if the food value chain from the farm to food handlers, manufacturers, restaurants, and, eventually, the table is handled under good sanitary conditions.
He said that, “though our work is in the area of micronutrients, there is a nexus between infection and malnutrition. If the food is infected or if the nutrients are reduced during food preservation, it affects what the end consumer gets. And that is why we work with the food value chain from the farmers, to the industries who preserve and food handlers, water and sanitation experts so the consumer can get the best of health.”
According to him, 800,000 children die annually in the country from one disease or other and half of these are from malnutrition.
Both Oyibo and Aminu blame governments at all levels for the poor water and sanitary conditions in the country while also calling for stiffer regulations and standardizations on food handlers, especially canteens and restaurants.
“Another important factor is sanitation and water, and we know the government has failed on that. How many places do you find water flowing through taps?” Oyibo queried.
He observed that during the Ebola outbreak in Nigeria, there was a policy of hand washing and many schools and public places created taps, but at present no one practices this anymore.
According to the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Program on water and sanitation, only 58 per cent of Nigeria’s over 160 million people have access to safe and clean water and sanitation.
Recently, the World Health Organization, WHO, released a statement estimating that two million people die annually from food borne diseases, especially in developing countries.
“Food borne pathogens can cause severe diarrhoea or debilitating infections including meningitis. Chemical contamination can lead to acute poisoning or long-term diseases, such as cancer. Examples of unsafe food include uncooked foods of animal origin, fruits and vegetables contaminated with faeces, and raw shellfish containing marine bio-toxins,” the statement noted.
The world health body added that unsafe food creates a vicious cycle of diarrhoea and malnutrition, threatening the nutritional status of the most vulnerable.