With the determination displayed by knorr, a popular brand of Unilever Plc to combat iron deficiency anaemia in the country, through its ‘social mission’ campaign, Nigeria is definitely on her way out of the life-threatening disease. Unilever Nigeria introduced the ‘Knorr Social Mission’ campaign in 2015 with the aim basically to reduce the prevalence of iron deficiency anaemia in Nigeria and indeed globally, while improving the health status of all.

According to the World Health Organisation,WHO, iron deficiency anaemia is a condition in which the red blood cells or their oxygen-carrying capacity is insufficient to meet physiological needs of the body. 

The symptoms of anaemic condition include, fatigue, dizziness, weakness, drowsiness, shortages of breath which are capable of militating against active living and human productivity.

Iron deficiency is thought to be the most common cause of anaemia globally, although other conditions, such as folate, vitamin B12 and vitamin A deficiencies, chronic inflammation, parasitic infections, and inherited disorders can also cause  anaemia.

The report by the Nutrition Society of Nigeria, NSN, pointed out that Nigeria faces one of the largest burdens of micro-nutrient deficiencies, with anaemia, the most common, having a big impact on the health of women and children.

The society   revealed further that 49 per cent of women of reproductive age have anaemia, 24.3 per cent have low iron stores while 12.7 per cent of them are iron deficient.

These figures suggested that majority of the adolescent girls and women have not met the iron requirements of 20 milligrams per day as recommended by the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Also, in a recent speech, the President of NSN, Professor Ngozi Nnam, explained that  adolescent girls and pregnant women constitute the major population that require the highest amount of iron intake as they are  most susceptible to iron deficiency, adding that the typical Nigerian diet is low in iron-rich foods, while cassava and cereals (high in phytates which decreases iron absorption) are commonly eaten staples.

“Pregnant women, teenage girls and women of reproductive age are among the most vulnerable to iron deficiency anaemia because of high iron requirements. Increasing iron intake during adolescence to prepare for pregnancy is crucial to decreasing the risk of iron deficiency anaemia and negative birth outcomes.

“The commonly consumed traditional dishes may not provide sufficient iron to meet the requirements and it may be a challenge to manipulate these recipes as they are passed down from generation to generation.  In Nigeria, mothers are the kitchen ‘gatekeepers’ and their adolescent daughters learn cooking behaviours from them,” she said

Arresting this scourge   which had raised serious concerns among relevant stakeholders , the Brand Building Director – Foods, Unilever Nigeria Plc, Mrs. Nsima Ogedi-Alakwe,  explained that it was for this reason that  the company had come up with its social mission campaign, by raising  a simple and  yet affordable technique which consumers, especially teenage girls and women in reproductive age can adopt to inculcate and maintain a lifestyle  free of iron deficiency anaemia.  The technique tagged ‘Green Food Steps’ requires mothers to toss leafy green vegetables into their stew, stir it together and crumble in iron-enriched Knorr maggi to achieve a nutritious yet iron-rich stew for healthy living.

Alakwe reiterated that the ’Green Food Steps’ campaign is part of the organisation’s commitment to bringing the United Nations global goals to life through the programme  , which is aimed at improving the lives of Nigerians with a special focus on teenage girls and maternal health.

“Through our social mission campaign, we have been championing the fight against iron deficiency, giving hope to 2 billion people worldwide who suffer from micro-nutrient deficiencies”, She added. 

Since the project kicked off in 2015, it has recorded impressive performances which kept on motivating the firm to do more. For example, at the end of 2015, the campaign had successfully transformed the lives of over 26,650 mothers and teenage daughters in Ijebu Ode, Ogun State and Amaigbo community in Imo State.

Alakwe remarked further that NSN report about Nigeria which states almost 1 in 2 women of reproductive age are anaemic while 50 per cent of these cases are caused by iron deficiency is not impressive, hence the pressure mounted on the project to achieve an optimal result. 

Having planned to reach out to at least 150,000 mothers and female teenagers in 2016, the programme set out in May with a visit to schools in the middle belt states.

The platform provided an opportunity for mothers and their daughters to be exposed to the simple and easy ways to cook nutritious meals that wouldhelp fight iron deficiency anaemia by following the three simple Green Food steps.

As part of the activities to round off the first and second phase of the campaigns, the organisation put up a celebration event to evaluate the impact of the campaign.

Participants Knowledge of the exercise was put to test as they were engaged in cooking and dancing competitions, while those who passed the test were also rewarded based on the level of their knowledge of the techniques.

Commending this initiative, the Principal of one of the participating schools, Government Secondary School, Bwari, Abuja,  Mrs. Aderinto Margaret, remarked that the programme would be effective in threatening the presence of iron deficiency anaemia in the country.

Alakwe stated that in addition to exposing Nigerians to simple and   affordable steps of getting a healthy meal, the campaign also sought to sensitise the populace on the health benefits and importance of iron intake.